An American soldier who died in the waning days of World War II during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium was awarded a Silver Star during a Veterans Day ceremony in California.
Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot of the 101st Airborne Division held back a German attack that included tank rounds at his machine gun station in the icy Belgian forest in January 1945, according to U.S. Army records.
"Sternot's men beat back the Germans, and he led his unit with calm and valor under fire," said Maj. Vonnie Wright of the 101st Airborne Division.
Sternot was cited for his heroism and awarded a Silver Star, but he never received the medal because he was killed days later during another German attack.
For reasons unknown, Sternot's medal was never officially given out after he was buried at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Hombourg, Belgium.
Decades later, in 2001, retired Army Lt. Col. Bill Linn, who runs the Heritage Arsenal Collection in Colorado, was given a prayer book belonging to Sgt. Sternot. From there, he began searching for Sternot's living relatives, which led him to Delores Sternot, 80, the self-described "little cousin."
On Sunday, Delores Sternot finally received her cousin's Silver Star at a ceremony at the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation in Santa Barbara, California.
"I'm stunned," Delores told CNN. "He is truly an American hero, along with so many other World War heroes killed. We are so proud of him. But why did it take so long?"
Officials said Sternot would be awarded the Bronze Star for fighting during D-Day, in Holland and at Bastogne in Belgium.
"He was robbed of the life filled with a lot of potential, and all of us relatives got robbed of spending time with him," Delores said. "But I'm happy he finally got that Silver Star."
This article was written by David Matthews from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.