December 31, 1942 – April 15, 1969
On Monday, April 14, 1969, a Navy EC-121M reconnaissance aircraft (PR-21/BuNo 135749) of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One (VQ-1) with a crew of 31, including nine Naval Security Group (NAVSECGRU) and Marine linguists was shot down by two North Korea MIGs fighter aircraft over the Sea of Japan. LTJG Sykora was a crew member in this aircraft and served as the navigator.
ROBERTSDALE, ALA. (WPMI) — The Robertsdale community is showing Navy LTJG Robert Sykora’s family that his service and sacrifice for our country during the Vietnam War will never be forgotten.
On Thursday, the Robertsdale High School class of 1961 honored Sykora and his family with a memorial and flag dedication on the front of the campus.
Sykora’s flag joins thousands of others, each placed by the RHS NJROTC program, representing a fallen hero from the Vietnam War.
For Glenn Sykora, it was an emotional tribute to his oldest brother Robert, who lost his life at the age of 26.
“He died a hero and the honor he’s getting now, it just all comes together,” said Sykora, “It was actually my 14th birthday party when the service came to the door and told us what happened. I’ll never forget that day.”
LTJG Sykora served years in the Navy. He died when his plane was shot down near Japan in 1969.
Sykora’s family, including his 99-year-old mother, gathered with his former RHS classmates who organized the event.
Harry White, one of Sykora’s classmates and organizer of the memorial, said they also dedicated a plaque in the school to former students killed while on active duty.
“It brought us closer to the Sykora family because we didn’t know them in high school. The first name on that board is Robert J. Sykora, but it’s a living document,” White said.
Sykora’s family said they were heartbroken when he was never officially honored by the military as a Vietnam war casualty. They were told it was considered a separate incident.
“That flag, when I put it in the ground and looked at the other flags that Robertsdale put out, it was closure,” said Glenn Sykora.
Robertsdale High School plans to continue adding names to the plaque, and is encouraging anyone to notify them if they know of a student who died while on active duty.