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Local News

Soldier who died in Pearl Harbor attack finally returns home to Joliet area

Michael Galajdik to be buried Saturday at Lincoln cemetery

Fireman 1st Class Michael Galajdik of the U.S. Navy, who died in Pearl Harbor attacks 75 years ago, will be buried Saturday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
Fireman 1st Class Michael Galajdik of the U.S. Navy, who died in Pearl Harbor attacks 75 years ago, will be buried Saturday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

A Lockport Township native who died in the Pearl Harbor attack more than 75 years ago is coming home.

Fireman 1st Class Michael Galajdik of the U.S. Navy was on the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and killed more than 2,300 Americans.

Ever since, Galajdik’s family has been waiting for the day that his remains would be identified and returned home. George Sternisha, of Crest Hill, has been working with the U.S. Navy in recent years, carrying on his mother’s wishes to get her brother home.

Sternisha got word in February that a positive identification of his uncle had been made. The Navy has tried many times to identify the remains of those who perished in the attack as DNA technology improves.

A funeral procession for Galajdik will depart 10:30 a.m. Saturday from Tezak’s Home to Celebrate Life, 1211 Plainfield Road in Joliet, to the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, 604 N. Raynor Ave. in Joliet.

From there, the procession will go to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, where Galajdik will get a grave site burial, which typically don’t happen Saturdays.

Ginger Dudek, of Joliet, was contacted by her aunt, who assists with funeral arrangements at the cathedral and asked if Dudek could find a way to get American flags to line the route from Tezak’s to St. Raymond’s. Through Facebook, countless people said they would be glad to line the route and show patriotism and respect for Galajdik, who is the first Illinois resident who died in the Pearl Harbor attacks to be identified.

“This is how they used to do it,” Dudek said. “When someone was coming home, people would show up on the roadside to honor them.”

Dudek said there is no formality to it, but patriot groups will be on hand and others can certainly line the route, which is just over a mile long, from the funeral home to the cathedral.

Sternisha was in Hawaii on Thursday with the Navy and will return Friday with his uncle’s remains.

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