By: Julia Deng
BIG SPRING - 91-year-old Ernest "Ernie" Andrus started his cross-country run on October 7, 2013 in San Diego.
The World War II veteran is making the three- to four-year journey to raise money for a cause close to his heart.
"I served on an LST [Landing Ship Tank] in World War II," he told NewsWest 9. "We wanted to take [the LST 325 ship] back to Normandy last year for [the 70th anniversary of D-Day], but we didn't have anywhere near enough money."
Andrus said his new goal is to transport the LST 325 to Normandy for the 75th anniversary memorial service in 2019.
Proceeds from his cross-country run will benefit the LST 325 Ship Memorial Inc.
"I was one of the crew that brought the LST 325 back from the Isle of Crete to the U.S. in 2000," said Andrus. "1,051 LSTs were built during World War II, but this one is now the only one left."
He and his late wife, Susan, were married aboard the ship.
A framed photo of the couple hangs above the driver seat of his mobile home, which he has moved across the country as he inches closer to his final destination of Brunswick, Georgia.
"I started my run by dipping my toes in the Pacific Ocean and I'm going to dip them in the Atlantic Ocean when I get to Georgia," said Andrus. "If I can get my average up to 20 miles per week, I can get there in May of 2016."
Between October 7, 2013 and February 24, 2015, he ran a total of 1,220.46 miles and spent 443 hours, 4 minutes and 28 seconds pounding the pavement.
"I've just been running on the side of highways," Andrus told NewsWest 9. "I don't run every day. I try to do six to eight miles on the days I do run."
Andrus has already raised thousands of dollars for the LST memorial fund, but said he's "much more excited" about the "wonderful, incredible people" he's met along the way.
Runners have traveled from nationwide to join him on a leg of his journey.
"There's a gal last week, [who] flew all the way from Maryland, rented a car in Dallas, drove down to run with me, then drove back to Dallas to fly home," he told NewsWest 9. "I've got a retired Marine, [who] has run 18 legs with me in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas."
Andrus hopes to reach the Atlantic Ocean before his 93rd birthday in August 2016 - and is considering running back to the Pacific.
"I've been telling my friends, 'What if I just turn around and run right back the other way?'" he said.
RUN WITH ERNIE ANDRUS
Andrus is inviting anybody and everybody to join him Thursday, February 26 at 10 a.m. for the next leg of his run.
He'll be setting out from the following address:
907 I-20 Frontage Road
Big Spring, TX 79720
Donations made to "USS LST Ship Memorial" are tax deductible.
Checks can be made payable to "USS LST Ship Memorial" or "Coast to Coast Runs."
Payments can be hand delivered to Andrus or mailed to the following address:
304 Brooklawn Drive
Banning, CA 92220