Ceremony for Monitor sailors stirs familial ties

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 2, 2013 at 8:08 pm •  Published: March 2, 2013
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"We knew there was a good chance we would find sailors in the turret because they would escape that way," said Scholley, who will travel from her home in Annapolis, Md., for the Arlington ceremony.

"I think everybody realized, yes, this is a piece of history, but it's more than that," Scholley said of the mood among divers, archeologists and others on a support barge when the remains were found. "These are men who fought for us and died for us, and here they are and we're bringing them home. It was very powerful."

The turret has gone through restoration and is on display at the USS Monitor Center of The Mariners' Museum in Newport News.

Meanwhile, in a longshot bid to identify the remains, the skulls of the sailors found in the turret were used to reconstruct their faces about a year ago.

Some families whose ancestors had served on the Monitor came forward — including Rambo's mother and Bryan — but DNA testing did not produce a conclusive match.

But some are confident their own detective work has sealed the family links to the two found in the turret.

Gaydee Gardner, Rambo's sister, said it's surreal to know "I am a blood relative to Jacob ... a 21-year-old kid off to sea on the first ironclad, whose president was Abraham Lincoln." She will travel from Rancho Mirage, Calif., for the ceremony in memory of "a kid who must have been terrified during his final hours."

Bryan said the Navy is sending a DNA kit to a maternal descendent in Australia in hopes of cementing the link with William Bryan.

"The more I've learned about him, the more I'm attached," said Bryan, who will join 20 family members in Washington. "It doesn't hurt that my father was William Bryan, so that always make it feel that it's pretty personal."

The remains were sent to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. They concluded the sailors were white, each was 5-foot-7, and one was 17 to 24 years old while the other was in his 30s. They narrowed the possibilities to six among the 16 Monitor sailors who died.

Forensic anthropologist Robert Mann said the command has not given up hope and is conducting more DNA testing. Genealogists have been able to determine possible descendants for 10 families of the missing 16 sailors.

But while efforts to identify the two continue, "let's lay the men to rest," said David Alberg, superintendent of the Monitor sanctuary.

Alberg — along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Maritime Heritage Program and descendants of the surviving Monitor crew members — have pushed for the Arlington honors.

"It's their final voyage," Alberg said. "They sailed out in 1862 and never made it home, and now they're finally being laid to rest 150 years later."

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Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap

Online:

The USS Monitor Center at The Mariners' Museum: http://www.marinersmuseum.org/uss-monitor-center/uss-monitor-center.