Joliet sailor killed at Pearl Harbor finally will be laid to rest

More than 75 years after Michael Galajdik was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the sailor from Joliet will reach his final resting place in the southwest suburbs.

Galajdik, a Navy Fireman 1st Class, will be interred Saturday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. He was 25 when he was killed while aboard the USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by the Japanese military that thrust the United States into World War II.

Crest Hill resident George Sternisha is escorting his uncle’s body from Hawaii and is expected to arrive Friday in preparation for the Saturday funeral services in Joliet.

It is a ceremony that has been years in the making.

“This was my mother’s wish,” Sternisha said Thursday from Hawaii. “I’m glad that I’m able to fulfill it.”

His mother, Anna, had longed to bury her brother, but Navy officials could not positively identify his remains before she died in 1993. The first glimmer of hope that Sternisha’s mother’s wish would be fulfilled came in 2011, when Navy officials alerted Sternisha of their efforts to use DNA to identify the remains of 388 military personnel — including 18 from Illinois — killed at Pearl Harbor. Using DNA and dental records, the Navy in February finally was able to identify Galajdik’s remains.

“I’m feeling closure,” said Sternisha, a Marine with a Purple Heart from service in Vietnam. “It’s been a long journey for me and my family.”

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