Silver Star Presented to Goleta Family of WWII Hero
Purple Heart, Bronze Star and now, Silver Star Recipient Sergeant Edmund J. Sternot, United States Army (Courtesy of the Sternot family)
Source: Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum
François Rabelais, the great French writer, physician, and Renaissance humanist, wrote that, “Time ripens all things; with Time all things are revealed; Time is the father of truth.”
These insightful words illustrate the story behind a Silver Star Medal of Honor, which at long last and nearly 75 years later, will be awarded to Sergeant Edmund J. Sternot. SSG Sternot was a soldier from ABU Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, who gave his life in service to the nation during WWII. Prior to receiving the award, Sergeant Sternot, was killed in action on 13 January 1945, near Champs, Belgium during the infamous Battle of the Bulge.
This personal valor decoration for "Gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States" [was] presented to Sergeant Sternot’s cousin and only surviving family member, Goleta resident Delores Sternot. The long over-due ceremony, which was delayed by paperwork lost to history until recent action by retired Army Lieutenant Commander William D. (Bill) Linn, [took] place at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday.
LTC Linn attended the ceremony to honor the bravery and sacrifice of Sergeant Sternot, a proud member of the Army’s elite Screaming Eagles. Army Major General Edward F. Dorman III (Ret.) [made] the formal presentation of all Sternot’s decorations: the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart, to Ms. Sternot, who was only five years old at the time of his death. Local veterans as well as members of Sternot’s former regiment – the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky - joined in the dignified and impactful ceremony. This is very same company and regiment that “Eddie” and his fellow soldiers we assigned to, when they fought and died at Bastogne, Belgium.
A story nearly 75 years in the making
LTC William (“Bill”) Linn is VP and COO of Heritage Arsenal, an organization dedicated to “honoring and preserving the legacy of military service. Serving as military museum consultants to a host of international and domestic clients, Heritage Arsenal also enables Veteran-focused non-profits with a model that generates residual revenue to support their mission and activities.” Linn states that unearthing the truth about Sergeant Sternot’s lost Silver Star made an major impression on him and highlights the important work he does to continue serving our country’s military and preserve the stories of our veterans to keep their memory alive.
Unraveling the mystery of the missing Silver Star began with a 2001 trip Linn took with his wife Courtney to visit Bastogne with a veteran of the 101st who had fought in the battle. While attending Mass at the chapel at Foy, a Belgian woman approached him. Linn says, “She explained that her father was a woodcutter in the local area and, – in 1947 – found a small prayer book lying in the forest just a few hundred yards from where they were standing. Inside the cover was the penciled name and home address of Edmund J. Sternot. She wanted me to find out what happened to this Soldier and, if possible return it to him or his family.”
According to Linn, “Researching Edmund Sternot and connecting with his family proved to more rewarding and impactful that we ever imagined. Rarely do you get an opportunity to be the connective tissue between a Soldier who lost his life that long ago and those still living who cared about him. That prayer book, we came to learn, was Edmund Sternot’s most prized possession. Since he was eight years old, it was something he carried every day of his life. The fact that it survived the horrific explosion when he was killed, that book, made this nothing short of a divine appointment. When the Sternot family first shared the photograph of young Edmund holding that book at the altar, and I stared into his eyes, it was like Edmund Sternot had been orchestrating this whole series of events from beyond the grave.”
Linn shared that, “Through cursory research, I discovered Eddie’s date of death. After repeated calls to Vesper, Wisconsin, he made contact with 89-year-old John Sternot – raised on the farm with Eddie all those years ago. After I explained that I had received a book in Bastogne with Eddie’s name in it, John proceeded to describe the book in exacting detail. He knew the book well, as each of the young men in the family had received one at their First Communion at eight-years-old. He also related a powerful dream he’d had just nights before in which he was led to believe Eddie was coming home from the war. I returned the book to the family, connected the Sternots with the Belgian woodcutter’s family, as well as the Belgian volunteer who decorates and cares for Eddie’s stone in a US cemetery overseas.”
In 2019, upon his retirement from the Army, Linn got the urge to reconnect with the Sternot family on the anniversary of Eddie’s death. He learned that John and his wife has passed but their daughter Delores – Eddie’s baby cousin, one of the family members Eddie wrote letters to from the battlefield - still lived alone in their house. She claimed that the family had heard rumors of a Silver Star, confirmed by photos of his military headstone in Belgium. Her questions about why the family had not received the Silver Star remained unanswered. To that end, Bill reached out to an archivist in Washington who was able to find the citation for the Silver Star in the National Archives.
Now with help of Pierre Claeyssens Veteran’s Museum, Major General Dorman, the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and local veterans, Sergeant Edmund J Sternot was formally decorated with his Silver Star, with his cousin Delores present to accept the accolade - a ceremony seven decades in the making.