Joni Kay Ernst

Honored by:Gail Ernst
Brick location:C:8  map

Joni is a very remarkable woman who constantly amazes me with her concern for others, charitable nature and selfless outlook on life. She is always the first to volunteer her spare time for any worthwhile cause and is frustrated by the lack of participation by others in such events. I must qualify this endorsement by stating upfront that I am the very, very fortunate man that she married and that I love her more than life itself- however, this will be as unbiased as possible! Here is her story.

Joni was born July 1, 1970, and grew up on a farm in Red Oak, Iowa, with one older sister and one younger brother. She graduated from Stanton High School, honored as the valedictorian of her class. Entering college life at Iowa State University, Joni answered another calling and chose to enter the Army ROTC program and also serve her country. In her sophomore year she led a group of young adults from Iowa on the first visit to the Ukraine. She was responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of the entire travel itinerary—lodging, feeding and care of the group. This trip fostered more foreign diplomacy and friendship toward the United States than all the years of political attempts at diplomacy.

Giving more of her free time to worthy causes, Joni volunteered to work at a safehouse for battered and abused women and children in Ames, Iowa. Answering a beeper call at mostly inconvenient and late hours, Joni would head to a hospital, police station or safehouse to give comfort to a woman or child in need of support. This was accomplished without deterring her from a full class schedule and the ROTC commitment as well. It was at this time that I met and fell in love with the future Mrs. Ernst.

Joni graduated from college and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant Army Engineer Corps. We moved to Savannah, Georgia, and were married while I was assigned to 1st Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. We were married by a Ranger-qualified chaplain, and Joni assumed the role of Army wife while managing to attend and graduate from the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

We currently live in Columbus, Georgia, and Joni will graduate with a master's degree in justice administration December 1994. Here, she attends graduate classes works part-time, serves as a platoon leader in an Army Reserve Unit, and attends all family support activities to assist the lower-ranking soldiers and families during deployments and family separations. She remains the caring, compassionate woman, giving of her free time to those who have needs, always before thinking of her own needs.

My wife and best friend, Joni, will be a worthy asset to the Plaza of Heroines and I'm very proud to be the one to enter her in a place that she can be honored.