World War II Navy veteran Ernie Andrus ran from California to Georgia once before. Now 95, he’s planning to hoof the same route from Georgia back to California over the next five years.
Andrus’ first coast to coast perambulation started near San Diego in October 2013 and wrapped up in August 2016 shortly after he turned 93. Andrus started his second sojourn from Saint Simons Island, Georgia on March 16, 2019 and said he plans to log 13 miles each week as he raises money for the LST 325 Ship Memorial.
The World War II-era ship, designed to transport land tanks and troops to enemy shores, was retrieved from the island of Crete and returned to the U.S. in 2001. Andrus was part of the veteran crew who accompanied the vessel back to the U.S., and raised money for the LST 325 Ship Memorial during his first cross country run.
“I feel it is important to remind this generation and the future generations that freedom is not free,” Andrus said in an email to the Military Times. “It is important that they remember what past generations sacrificed to create a free nation and what my generation and todays generation are still doing to keep it that way. The younger people need to be prepared to do their part if needed.”
According to Andrus’ website, his goal is to bring the ship to the shores of Normandy for a D-Day Memorial. The ship, now owned by the LST 325 Ship Memorial, is the last fully functioning landing ship, tank in the country.
Andrus said he raised approximately $30,000 on his first run, but that the second run hasn’t raised much yet. However, he said it would take millions to carry the ship to the shores of Normandy.
“We need millions,” Andrus said. “I’m hoping if a hundred-year-old Navy Vet completes a coast to coast run the Navy will take notice and maybe give us some help.”
When asked what inspired him to complete a second run across the U.S., Andrus said he wanted a change of scenery and enjoyed meeting new people.
“I got bored running in the same neighborhood and I met so many wonderful people while running on the highway,” Andrus said. “I like to run and I'm still trying to raise money for the LST 325 Ship Memorial.”
“It's a good feeling when thousands have said on Facebook I have inspired them to exercise,” he added.
Andrus’ first run across the country was completed just under 1,000 hours over the course of 2 years and 10 months.