Veterans Voices: lost prayer book is found and returned to Wisconsin family

Veterans Voices

(WLAX/WEUX) – Every war hero has a story, some just take a little longer to tell. Seven decades longer in the case of a World War II hero named Eddie Sternot. The final chapter of his book was written, only  a few months ago. Jeremy Hubbard shares this Veterans Voices report.

Bill Linn is a real military buff. It’s probably because he served 27 years in the army.

“I deployed 8 times,” said Linn.

Service is in his DNA, and in his warehouse, where he has a museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado dedicated to veterans. We’re talking old uniforms, pictures, newspaper clippings, everything.

“We don’t want this stuff ending up in a dumpster or in a pawn shop someplace,” said Linn.

This might be his most prized possession and when you hear the long journey this little prayer book took to get here, you’ll understand why. Here’s the book, right there in the hands of little Edmund “Eddie” Sternot as a child, and it remained his pocket companion a few years later during World War II, where he kept it in his uniform, every day during the Battle of the Bulge.

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

A young Staff Sgt., four thousand miles from home, who died in service to his country. Sternot was buried here in this American cemetery in Belgium, but his book? It stayed on the battleground.

Seems it likely fell from his pocket the day he died and remained here in the woods. Sixty plus years later, fate brought it to Bill Linn at a church service nearby in Belgium honoring Battle of the Bulge heroes. A

woman approached him.

Linn said, “She explained that her father was a woodcutter in 1947, he was chopping wood in that forest and he discovered this book lying on the forest floor.”

That woman really wanted bill to return to Eddie’s family in America, and he was happy to. Even found a clue on its tattered pages.

“This book as it turns out had his name and address in Wisconsin inside. To believe that that, after all that time, could be legible, was really amazing,” said Linn.

But Bill knew there had to be more to the story. He did some research and found out just a week before Eddie died, he did something heroic. He held off a German attack. Tank rounds were being fired at his machine gun post, but he and his men beat back the enemy, saving American lives. And for that he was awarded the Silver Star for heroism. But he died before he could ever receive it, and his family never got it either.

Last Veterans Day in California, seventy-five years after his death, Eddie Sternot finally got a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and there to receive those medals was his little cousin Delores. His only living relative.

“I’m glad he finally got his due justice,” said Delores.

All books tell stories, but few contain the mystery and adventure of this old prayer book. It even has a happy ending, too, thanks to a veteran who helped write its final chapter.

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

For Veterans Voices, I’m Jeremy Hubbard.

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