Lost Monitor sailors near burial

WASHINGTON — Two sailors who perished 150 years ago in the sinking of one of history's most famous warships took a solemn step toward their final resting place Thursday when their remains were transferred to a Navy ceremonial guard at Dulles International Airport.

Recovered from the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor in 2002, the remains have been in the custody of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii for more than a decade, during which time forensic anthropologists have conducted an exhaustive but futile effort to determine their identities.

They will be buried as unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Friday — one day before the 151st anniversary of the Monitor's historic clash with the CSS Virginia in the Battle of Hampton Roads.

"We want to convey to the nation that the Navy continues to maintain its commitment to bringing every sailor home and giving them an appropriate burial and resting place," Assistant Navy Secretary Juan Garcia said.

"Part of the promise we make them when they raise their right hand and promise to make the ultimate sacrifice is that we will do everything we can to bring them home if we have to."

Look for continuing coverage from staff writer Mark St. John Erickson and photographer Rob Ostermaier at dailypress.com and in Friday's Daily Press.