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80 years after Pearl Harbor, remains of sailor to be buried; suburban family to honor him in Hawaii

Suburban family to honor sailor after remains are finally identified
Suburban family to honor sailor after remains are finally identified 02:23

CHICAGO (CBS) — The family has told his story for over 80 years.

 A teenage sailor was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Finally, his family will be able to close one last chapter, which they never expected.

"The medal is in great shape, and of course, it's engraved on the back."

The uncle Sandra Hannan never met, the one she can never forget.

"It was awarded posthumously to Michael Malek, my uncle," Hannan said. 

She has no memory of him. Just a medal, a picture, and a passed-down story.

"The story in the family and some of the documentation we have indicates that he lied about his age for a year and actually joined the Navy at 17," Hannan said. 

The seaman 2nd class from Chicago, was on board the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked.

 "You do your history lessons and don't realize how long it's been," Hannan said. 

Malek was one of 429 on board who didn't survive. His remains were never identified.

Lost for nearly 80 years until Sandra's phone rang, and the Navy shared the news.

"So, this is the information that I got from the Navy identifying my uncle," Hannan said. "You know, they traced his dental records. They have the comparison DNA record that they did."

Scientists with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency found the DNA match, and the Navy found Hannan.

"Unexpected. Completely unexpected," she said. "They went through a lot of effort, and that makes it even more important."

Next week, the family will fly to Honolulu, Hawaii, where Michael Malek will be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific with full military honors.

"You know, I have to be there to see that through," Hannan said. 

Her uncle served and sacrificed. Sandra feels it's her duty to remember.

"(To) see that that part of our family's not lost," Hannan said.

The Navy started the process of identifying the remains of sailors lost on the USS Oklahoma in 2015.

So far, 356 have been identified, but 32 remain unaccounted for. 

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