JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Apparently, running across the country is a gift you give yourself.
After making a trip from San Diego, California to Saint Simons Island, Georgia at 93-years-old, Ernie Andrus is attempting to make the trip again.
On Monday, Andrus turned 96-years-old and made a stop on his trip in Grand Ridge, Florida.
He, along with family, fellow veterans and Congressman Neal Dunn celebrated his big day inside Blondie’s Food and Fuel on Highway 90.
This time around, Andrus is starting in Georgia and making his way back to California.
“I got bored. Two years of just running there in the neighborhood. I decided I’d get back on the highway where I’m really having fun,” Andrus said.
Andrus is a World War II Navy veteran and says, the highway is also where he decided to join the armed forces.
Andrus said, “I was crusin’ the streets of Los Angeles in my Model A roadster with a buddy of mine, trying to pick up chicks and I had this little portable radio set up in the back of me and it said ‘Pearl Harbor had just been bombed.’ And I said to my buddy, ‘where is Pearl Harbor?’ He says, ‘I don’t know but I think we’re at war. Let’s go join the Navy!’
From there, Andrus volunteered to work with the Hospital Core.
“My job is to keep those Marines alive. I was very fortunate. The Lord was looking after me cause I never lost a patient.”
Now years later, he’s hoping his running journey will help raise money to honor a Landing Ship Tank, the LST 325.
Andrus said, “This particular ship was at Normandy on D-Day. I’d like to take it back over for a memorial service.”
This ship is known as the ‘ship that won the war’ and Andrus says he just wants it to be preserved.
Andrus is apart of what’s known as the ‘greatest generation’ but he doesn’t think that’s the case.
“The ‘greatest generation’ is probably the ones before our generation because you go back to those who made this country free in the first place and you don’t want to let them down,” Andrus said.
Congressman Neal Dunn presented Andrus with an American flag and certificate during the party. He says though, just being around a veteran of his kind was special.
“They say you’re not making any more World War II veterans and they really are the greatest generation. It’s just fun to sit and talk to them and hear them tell their stories,” Dunn said.
Andrus said it will take millions of dollars to get the LST 325 back to Normandy and he hopes he can finish his trip by the time he turns 100-years-old.
“The chances of raising it are pretty slim but I thought if I could make it to live to be 100 and reach San Diego, I may be able to get the Navy interested,” Andrus said.
You can follow Andrus’ journey, learn more about it or even donate to the cause here.
A fellow World War II veteran from Dellwood, Florida, was also at Andrus’ party. Milton Mooneyham will be 98-years-old next month and served in the Army. You can see what Andrus’ had to say about his new friend in the video below.