Lance Peter Sijan was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 13 April 1942. After attending the U.S. Navy Preparatory School, Bainbridge, Maryland, he entered the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, graduating 9 June 1965. Commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, Sijan was assigned to Laredo AFB, Texas, for undergraduate pilot training (UPT). After graduating from UPT, he joined the 431st Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB, California. In July 1967, Sijan was transferred to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam, as an F-4C pilot.
On 9 November 1967, Sijan and his commander, Colonel Armstrong, were struck by antiaircraft fire while on a night mission approximately 37 miles southwest of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. Parachuting into the karst hills, Sijan suffered a broken left leg, mangled right hand, severe lacerations, and a concussion. Despite these injuries and subsequent severe weight loss, he remained at large for about 46 days.
Following his capture on approximately 25 December 1967, Sijan was removed to a holding point from which he escaped after overpowering a guard. Recaptured, he was kept in solitary confinement and tortured, but refused to reveal any information to his captors. He was then placed in the care of fellow prisoner, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Craner. Sijan subsequently contracted pneumonia and died at Hoa Lo on 22 January 1968.
On 4 March 1976, in ceremonies at the White House, President Gerald R. Ford posthumously awarded Captain Sijan the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Sijan had earlier won the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Purple Heart with Oak leaf Cluster.)
On Memorial Day 1976, the United States Air Force Academy honored the first of its graduate to receive the Medal of Honor by officially designating the second cadet dormitory as Sijan Hall.
The Friends were instrumental in acquiring a collection of Sijan photos, memorials, and prisoner-of-war material for the Academy and the McDermott Library.