SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot of the 101st Airborne Division was finally honored posthumously today with a Silver Star for his gallantry during the Battle of the Bulge on January 4, 1945 in the Ardennes Forrest.
Sternot's unit set up a perimeter defense around Bastogne and was prepared to defend against the many German counterattacks.
On that heroic day in January, Sternot's unit was hit by a series of strong attacks by the German army leaving his unit isolated and alone. Sternot bravely led his machine gun section from several different positions to beat back the German attacks leaving 60 enemy dead in front of his machine gun station.
Sternot earned a Silver Star for his heroism, but on January 13, 1945 he courageously exposed himself to enemy fire to throw a hand grenade and was killed in action by a German tank round before he could ever receive the award.
Today the Soldiers from Sternot's unit, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne", 101st Airborne Division received their prime opportunity to present Sternot's last living relative his Silver Star at a Silver Star awards ceremony at the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation.
Lt. Col. Trevor Voelkel, commander of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, had the honor of presenting the Silver Star today alongside retired Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman III, an alumni of the regiment himself, and was humbled to be present at such a historical moment.
"While serving in Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, we received word of this story and without hesitation began planning," said Voelkel. "I looked at the plaque of Silver Star recipients in our headquarters and saw Staff Sgt. Sternot's name on it. I'm honored to be here and be a part of this ceremony."
The Silver Star was presented to 80-year-old Delores Sternot, Staff Sgt. Sternot's first cousin, of Goleta, California.
Delores, full of emotion, continued to wonder why such a ceremony was happening as she often referred to their family as ordinary folk.
Dorman gladly answered that question during his address to the audience of the ceremony.
"I commanded Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment many years ago so it is very humbling to be here," said Dorman. "Delores has stated that her family are ordinary folk but that's what makes them great. Ordinary folks do extraordinary things for the nation in times of peril."
Delores also received Staff Sgt. Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart formally during this ceremony in front of veterans, family and friends within the community of Santa Barbara on behalf of the 101st Airborne Division.
Maj. Gen. Brian Winski, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, felt that it was essential to give Sternot the proper honors that he deserves as a Soldier within the division's legacy and history.
"Staff Sgt. Eddie Sternot is part of the Greatest Generation and the 101st Airborne Division's incredible history," said Winski. "I'm extremely proud that we are able to render proper honors to him and to his family with the presentation of a Silver Star that Staff Sgt. Sternot earned during the Battle of the Bulge."
After nearly 75 years Sternot and his family received a ceremony fit for a hero. It has been a long time coming and with many emotions Delores was overwhelmed by the love and care shown by all the service members present.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Bill Linn worked over 20 years to bring closure to the Sternot family and has become a family friend in the process.
"This was about principle," said Linn. "I have always fought for principles. It doesn't matter if 75 years went by or what his rank was. He deserved this ceremony. This is a win for the Army. This is a win for the 101st Airborne Division."
Col. Derek Thomson, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne", is especially proud that his Soldiers from Sternot's very own unit were able to honor him today.
"Staff Sgt. Sternot represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division and the 327th Regiment," said Thomson. "It was the sergeant on the ground who made all the difference in the Battle of the Bulge, and Edmund will always serve as an example of what real combat leadership looks like. His memory lives in today's Screaming Eagles, and it is with great pride that the 101st presents the Silver Star to the family 75 years after he earned this extraordinary honor."
During this Veterans Day weekend there was no better way to honor those that served and continue to serve than with honoring this American hero.