He proved to everyone he's definitely not average. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield introduces us to this week's Hometown Hero, Joe Ernst.
"These are not medals. This tells you where I've been."
But, it was what Joe Ernst did here in his hometown which makes him no average Joe.
"I supposed you've heard of Ella Fitzgerald. I didn't know who she was."
He found out about midnight in 1942. The Queen of Jazz walked into the restaurant he was running and asked for a meal.
"I was 17-years old and she came to town. Her and her band was hungry. Nobody would feed them."
But Joe did.
"I started cooking eggs and hamburgers. She said, 'You are about the nicest boy I've ever met.' She said, 'I'm gonna sing you a song,' and I said, 'Oh, my god.'"
That night, and that song, would change his life forever, but it started off on a sour note.
"They come in, he said, 'You are out of business.' Because they were black. Can you imagine that? They run me out because I fed black people."
He tried to start over, but the town wouldn't let him.
"I joined the Navy for 21-dollars a month and I stayed there for five years. That's when it got exciting."
On D-Day, Ernst was on the Beaches of Normandy. He had to sink his own ship to calm rough waters and let others through. A suicide mission he survived.
"I thought I was gonna go crazy after what I seen here in D-Day. That was the most terrible thing I'd ever seen in my life."
When he came back, Ernst raised a family and worked 50-years before the town would see his medals and celebrate his story.
"I think he was a hero for what he did during that time, when he fed a busload of people that nobody wanted to feed."
That's why, earlier this year, the Walldogs painted this mural. It sits right in the middle of town as a reminder that doing the right thing makes you no average Joe.
"You look at people, and you try to help people out and that's what he has instilled in me."
Ernst also received the French Medal of Honor. He returned to New York many times while in the navy, but he was never able to see Ella Fitzgerald again. His brother also has a mural in Our Town.