By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 21, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – One veteran, Ernest "Ernie" Andrus is traveling from Georgia to California to raise money for an LST 325 ship memorial. This memorial has the last functioning landing ship used during the war, and Ernie hopes to bring the ship to the shores of Normandy for a D-day memorial. But this is no easy feat.
You see, Ernie is 95 years old and this is his second time going coast to coast, raising money for this same cause. His first journey he began four years ago, and the trek took him 2 years and 10 months.
But Ernie has an energy unlike any other. And on Saturday morning, veterans, runners, and citizens of the Capital City showed up to witness the veteran in action.
For someone who has never seen or heard of Ernie, it is quite the experience. Ernie laughs when he thinks of people's reactions, "I've had a few runners come out and say they thought they could not even do it, but they say if you can do it I can do it.
Andrus is about 4 months in to his journey. His friend, Ted Dickerson, who served during Desert Storm and Vietnam, accompanied Ernie on his last trip, and had to make it out again this time around. He first heard about him after seeing pictures of Ernie running through Texas. The pair remained close after Ted ran by his side during his leg in Tallahassee. Ted shares that after the first time Ernie made it to California, he started becoming restless, and "ran circles around the Country Club."
Ted recalls, "So then he says you know what, I am going to do it again. I'm going to start from," he laughs, "he's crazy!"
But Ernie does not seem to think so, "The main reason I am running is for the fun of it, and the adventure. This time its memory lane, meeting all the people that I know and all of the friends I made on the last one."
Friends like John Martin. John first found out about Ernie after seeing a YouTube of Ernie running. John says "I just had to be a part of it." So he flew himself from California to Louisiana, to meet Ernie. He was hooked, but he returned to work and met Ernie 8 months later in California when we crossed the finish line. That day, John told Ernie that when he decided to run again, to give him a call.
"At my 95th birthday party I announced that I was going to do this," shares Ernie, "My daughters are all like no, no and I said well I am not going to be alone, right John?" He pauses, pretending to be John, "What?!"
John retired early to accompany Ernie, "It's hashtag adventure of a lifetime. It is, there is no way that I could turn this down."
Although time has passed since the first time Ernie took off, the goal for his journey remains the same-to preserve and remember history. Ernie says it starts with the youth, "They got to realize what it takes to keep this country free and what the past generations have done to make it free. And what the future generations are going to have to do to keep it that way."
Many amazed by his will to go the extra mile. Ted expresses, "I challenge everybody to spend one mile with him. Walk side by side with him. He has stories to tell I mean," he looks at Ernie in awe, "he is an inspiration."
John says spending day in and day out on all of his adventures has taught him so much, "You can do anything you want. It doesn't matter how ridiculous or crazy you think it is. If you want to do it and its in you, you can do it, he's living proof of that."
Although Ernie will age, and the schedule may change, he says he will continue to run on, "I am going to enjoy trying."
John says, "You better be in San Diego in 2024-2025 to see this guy come across that finish line and touch the Pacific Ocean because we will be there."
Ernie runs Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
He posts where the meeting location will be the day before the run, and meet up is at 6 a.m. and the run/walk begins at 6:30 a.m. Runs can be anywhere from 5 to 3 miles.