LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — In honor of Black History Month, the Los Angeles Police Department Thursday honored an American hero.

Lt. Col. Otis Cowley was presented with the first ever Heroes Among Us award.

“I’m am so surprised,” Cowley said. “My heart is beating, it feels like I want to cry.”

Cowley was a Tuskegee Airman, known to his unit as “Big-O” for his outstanding leadership.

He served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War before retiring from the Air Force in 1970.

Officers with the LAPD first learned about his story after doing a welfare check.

“They discovered this man just in an effort to do a door knock to make sure he was OK and as they learned more about him, they recognized that this was an opportunity for us to build him up and to encourage his heart,” Chief Michel Moore said.

Cowley has lived in Los Angeles since 1970, settling in Vermont Square Park.

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