96-Year-Old WWII Veteran Runs Coast-to-Coast to Raise Money for Historic Ship

Ernie Andrus

A 96-year-old World War II veteran is running coast-to-coast for his second time to raise enough money to sail the fully restored landing ship the USS LST 325, to Normandy, France, in time for D-Day’s anniversary.

Ernie Andrus was inspired to run across the U.S. when he heard about a British man who made it his goal in life to run across every country.

Shortly after learning about this man, he began running long-distance relay races to make sure he was in enough shape to do a cross-country run.

At 88 years old, Andrus ran his first 200-mile relay.

“People were asking for my autograph and wanting pictures taken with me,” he told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. “I thought if an 88-year-old gets this much attention, how about a 90-year-old running coast to coast.”

The cross-country run was just for fun at first. But then Andrus remembered he could raise money for what at the time seemed like an impossible dream: to sail the LST back to Normandy.

Andrus served in the Navy as a corpsman whose job was to keep wounded Marines alive until they were transported to a hospital.

“God was good to me,” he said. “I never lost a patient during the entire war.”

During WWII, Andrus served on a ship identical to the USS LST 325. Andrus made history the first time by completing his first cross-country run, becoming the oldest person ever to run the distance.

He finished the day after his 93rd birthday on August 20, 2016. Since then, he has decided to run again — this time, from east to west.

Andrus starts his days around 3 a.m. to perform a few exercises to get his heart pumping. He gets a cup of coffee, shaves, and by 5 a.m. he has already finished breakfast. He then spends the rest of the day either napping or getting some screen time in. But on those days when he runs, he postpones his breakfast.

“A shower, a nap, and back to the usual,” he said. “I usually retire around 9 p.m. just after I lift weights to keep my leg muscles strong.”

He is always accompanied by John Martin, a Louisiana native who met Andrus on his first run. Martin, a retired firefighter, is responsible for keeping track of Andrus’s schedule and assists with driving, shopping, and laundry.

Since there have been social distancing and stay-at-home orders put in place because of the coronavirus, Andrus has not been able to host book signings or meet-and-greets.

“I have very few friends running with me,” he said. “I miss those hugs and handshakes.”

Andrus said it would take about five years to complete his second journey since he is only running 13 miles per week.


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