ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A Missouri native who was held captive for 444 days in Iran in 1979 gave the keynote speech at this weekend’s veterans ceremony at Soldiers Memorial in downtown St. Louis.
Rodney 'Rocky' Sickmann said his childhood in Krakow, MO was idyllic. After high school, he knew he wanted to join the Marine Corps. In 1971, he was working as a Marine security guard at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran when his world was turned upside down.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran put four women up front, knowing the mindset of marines would not shoot unarmed innocent women," Sickmann said. The seize on November 4, 1979 was the beginning of his 444 days in captivity.
"Next 30 days, I sat tied to a chair, not allowed to speak," Sickmann said. "For the next 400 days, I was locked in a room, not allowed to go outside."
It was thoughts of home that kept him going. He kept a diary and wrote about his family and his girlfriend, Jill.
"That first Thanksgiving was tough because I was tied to a chair, and I would relive everything I could as far back as I could," Sickmann said. "How wonderful my mom, making the homemade bread and caramel rolls."
His freedom didn't come until January 20, 1981.
"I go back to that November 4, 1979, I just wished I had pulled the trigger," Sickmann said. "Although my orders were not to do it but you wonder what if, what would have happened, if you had been able to fire upon them."
This month marks 40 years since he was taken prisoner during the Iranian hostage crisis.
He eventually married Jill and the couple raised their family in St. Louis.
Despite everything he has endured, when Veterans Day comes around, it's others he wants to honor.
"These veterans are who made me who I am, I was just following the legacy of the prior military men and women who have served our country," Sickmann said. "Enjoy your freedom because that freedom is not free."