Listen to ‘An American Hero’ tonight in Sycamore

Mohawk Historical Society, Sycamore American Legion Post 250 and the Sycamore Fire & Rescue squads plan to present “An American Hero” at 7 p.m. today in Sycamore Community Center, 3498 SR 103.

The featured speaker, retired Capt. Guy D. Gruters, who was a Vietnamese prisoner of war from 1967 until 1973, is to deliver a message of leadership, teamwork, humility and forgiveness. Veterans who attend are to be recognized.

The vent is free, and donations are to accepted for the “Christmas For Yanks Fund” at Sandusky, Ohio Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home.

The American Legion Auxiliary plans a Chili Feed before the event 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, 125 S. Sycamore Ave. Veterans can eat for free; donations are accepted.

Gruters, from New Jersey, graduated from the Air Force Academy with a bachelor’s degree in engineering science and completed a master’s degree in astronautical engineering from Purdue University. After pilot training and fighter gunnery school, he volunteered for Vietnam and served six years there, more than five as a POW.

He completed more than 400 combat missions, first for the 173rd Airborne Brigade flying O-1 aircraft and then flying F-100s for the Misty Fast forward air controllers flying over North Vietnam. He was awarded more than 30 combat awards, including two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars for valor, a Presidential Unit citation, a POW medal and 20 air medals.

He was shot down twice and captured the second time, Dec. 20, 1967. Meanwhile, Lance Sijan had been shot down in early November and still was in the jungle. Sijan evaded capture for 46 days. He finally was captured Christmas Day 1967 and moved into a small holding prison with Gruters and Maj. Bob Craner shortly thereafter. The three of them made the trip north to the Hanoi Hilton in the back of a military truck. Gruters and Craner were with Sijan until his removal to a hospital and death in late January 1968.

After their release in March 1973, their testimony was the basis for the award of the Congressional Medal of Honor to Sijan. Gruters also collaborated closely with Malcolm McConnell of the Reader’s Digest in his book “Into the Mouth of the Cat,” a story about one man’s struggle to resist all interrogation despite terrible physical injuries.

Gruters has written a new book, “Locked Up with God; My Best Thirteen Speeches,” available on Amazon.com. This book is divided into three parts, one on faith, one on family and one on combat and prison camp. There have been two additional books written with stories about Gruters, “Bury Us Upside Down,” by Rick Newman and Don Sheppard, and “Misty,” by retired Air Force Maj. General Don Sheppard.

Gruters joined Eastern Airlines as a pilot, flying DC-9s and Boeing 727s, and retired as a captain in 1991. Gruters now works with his brother as a writer/editor and professional speaker about the POW experience.

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