Vietnam War POW Shares Need for Faith of the American Airman

Retired Air Force Capt Guy Gruters, who was a POW in Vietnam for 5 years, recently told his story to the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Wisconsin.

For a time, Gruters’ cell mate was Air Force Capt Lance P. Sijan.

Gruters told the audience, which also included…Janine Sijan Rozina, Sijan’s sister, that he and Sijan were in the same squadron at the U.S. Air Force Academy for three years. Sijan, a Milwaukee native, was solid as a rock at 210 pounds and had played football for the Academy.

“To see him hurt so bad was really difficult,” Gruters said. “They would torture him, and we would scream in our cells to get them to lay off him and they’d come beat us.”

Capt Gruters clearly conveys the faith that helped both him and his fellow prisoners through their captivity.

In the more than five years Gruters spent in captivity, he and his fellow prisoners devised a way to communicate to keep their faith alive…

“We did texting,” Gruters said. “You know how all the kids do texting now. Every night we tapped GNGBU. Good night, God bless you.”

The punishment for communicating was three days and three nights of torture, but the prisoners communicated for hours using the tap code to raise their morale and hold on to their faith.

Faith wasn’t an option in the tortuous camps:

The higher ranking officers often took the brunt of the beatings for their men. They encouraged subtle resistance and mandated that they take part in church services within their cells. Their primary order was to return with honor.

Fellow POW Capt Lee Ellis has written a book (currently on the CSAF Professional Reading List) that conveys similar principles of men who leaned heavily on faith in each other and in God in the hope they would return home, and return with honor.