Veterans Voices: Final chapter of Army hero’s story written after battlefield discovery of prayer book

Veterans Voices
12 Salutes Local Veterans on WPRI.com

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) – Every war hero has a story. Some just take a little longer to tell. It’s taken more than seven decades to write the final chapter of World War II soldier Edmund “Edddie” Sternot’s story and an Army veteran named Bill Linn helped write it.

“To us, this is very personal,” Linn said, walking around Heritage Arsenal, his sprawling museum in Colorado Springs, Colo., dedicated to US war heroes. The warehouse is filled with old uniforms, medals and newspaper clippings. But one memento really stands out. A Catholic prayer book with a history.

The book was given to Sternot as a little boy in Wisconsin for his confirmation. And a few years later he took it with him to World War II.

 “Where on the 13th of January 1945, he was killed in action in a place called Bois Jacques,” Linn said.

Sternot was buried in an American cemetery in Belgium, but his prayer book stayed on the battlefield. More than 60 years later, fate brought it to Linn at a church service nearby in Belgium, honoring Battle of the Bulger heroes. A woman approached him.

“And she explained that her father was a woodcutter in 1947, he was chopping wood in that forest,” Linn said.

She wanted Linn to return it to Sternot’s family.

“This book, as it turns out, had his name and address in Wisconsin inside,” Linn said.

This tattered prayer book belonged to Staff Sgt. Edmund “Eddie” Sturnot of Vesper, Wisc. He was killed in action on January 13, 1945 in the Battle of the Bulge, but the book remained on the forest floor in Belgium for two more years. It was eventually given to Bill Linn, an Army veteran in Colorado Springs, Colo., who discovered Sturnot was owed a Silver Star for his heroism in the war. The medal was posthumously given to Sturnot’s cousin at a ceremony in Goleta, Cali., last Veterans Day.

Linn did some research and discovered, just a week before Sternot died, he did something heroic. He and his men held off a German attack, while taking direct fire from tanks. There is little doubt he saved American lives that day.

So Linn decided it was finally time for Sternot to get the recognition he deserved.

At a special ceremony over Veterans Day 2019 in Goleta, Cali., Sternot was posthumously awarded a a Silver Star for heroism, along with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

“It’s wonderful,” said Delores Sternot, 80, his only known living relative.

“And I’m glad he finally got his due justice,” she added.

And it’s all thanks to a veteran who helped write the final chapter for a little prayer book.

“The worst thing is not to die in combat. The worst thing is to be forgotten,” Linn said.

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