WWII Veteran runs for the fallen


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Veterans and staff members at the Biloxi VA Medical Center hosted a special visitor earlier this year.  Ernest Andrus stopped by the hospital at the end of January, one of his days off, to Andrus_5attend a reception in his honor.  These days it’s not so easy to get on Andrus’ calendar as the 92-year-old WWII Veteran runs across the country four days a week to raise awareness of the sacrifices the men and women of the military made during World War II and the many conflicts since that time.

“Freedom isn’t free,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget our comrades that were injured or killed serving and protecting our country.  That’s what I hope I can achieve with this run.  Plus I always wanted to do this.”

Once Andrus made up his mind to run across the country, he spent several months planning the trip.  In October 2013 he touched the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, turned east and began jogging.  He’s been running ever since, and in January, as he ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, VA staff jumped at the chance to invite him over.

“As you can see from this large turnout,”  said Anthony Dawson, the director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, “we are all in awe of what you are doing and honored to have you here today for a visit. If we switched the numbers of your age making you 29 it would still be an amazing accomplishment.  But at 92, wow!”

Here’s how Andrus came to running across the country at age 92.

Ernest Andrus was a corpsman in the Navy, joining at the start of the war.  He left the Navy when the war ended in 1945, and enrolled in college on the VA GI Bill, found a job and went on with his life.  He didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his experiences during the war, as some did. He said it was too hard to do.

“I wasn’t right in the middle of the action,” Andrus said, “but I saw enough. I found it easier to just not spend a lot of time thinking about those that didn’t come back. Not like some of my crewmates did. Not for a long time.”

As a corpsman aboard a LST (Landing Ship, Tank), Andrus said he stayed busy tending to the wounds and illnesses associated with war.  He assisted in surgeries, and to this day recalls an amputation that was performed aboard his ship.  As the surgeon began the procedure, the patient needed blood.  Andrus was the same blood type so he rolled up his sleeve, while he was holding the IV bag (they didn’t have a pole), and gave blood.  He had to do this several times throughout the night.  He remembers feeling light headed and weak.

“We all did what we had to do,” Andrus said.  “I didn’t do anything that any other man in our crew wouldn’t have done.”

Andrus’ life ticked along at a normal pace for the next 60 years or so.  One day he received a phone call from some of his former crew members, to include the skipper, and nothing was ever the same after that.

“We were at a point in our lives when our families were grown, our careers were over and now we had time to think.  So we began reminiscing about our time in the service.  And one thing we all agreed on was we wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” he said.

“We wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” Andrus said.

So the group of about 30 got together and decided they could preserve the memories of life aboard a Navy LST by finding and refurbishing a decommissioned ship and turning it into a floating memorial.  They located the USS LST-325 in Greece, got it back to America and it now is available for tour in Indiana.  The refurbishment took years of red tape, fundraising and countless hours of coordination, but the group persevered.  The effort serves as a testimony to Andrus’ sheer grit and determination as he treks across the country to share the message that America should acknowledge and appreciate all that Veterans have done to preserve freedom.

“We have a great country,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget how we got here.”

If all goes as planned, Andrus will arrive on the east coast of Georgia, near Brunswick, on Aug. 20, 2016, one day after his 93rd birthday.


GomingerAbout the author: Mary Kay Gominger is chief of community and public affairs at the Biloxi, Mississippi VA Medical Center and contributed this story after her experience meeting Mr. Andrus.

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Comments

  1. Melissa    

    Someone should set this man up with a fund me page ! He is awesome!

  2. Marc Mercury    

    Earnest andrus,
    Wow, You are certainly God Blessed. My dad served with the Glenn Miller Air Force band and I was U.S. Navy SeaBees. It is amazing and honorable what you are doing to honor the Vets.
    The Great Apostle Paul spoke of running the race for the Crowns we receive through are Salvation we gets when we receive Christ Jesus as our Personal Saviour, knowing He is God in human flesh that died for the sins of All mankind.
    Keep running and i am sorry i cannot be with you. Thanks for being an amazing man as running the race. See you in heaven one day young man.

    Sincerely m Mercury

  3. John Ortega    

    Corpsman Ernest Andrus…Outstanding mate! Well done Sir! Semper Fi!

  4. Marywadge    

    I know just how he feels he loves his country I deal with it everyday since 1987 i have lived with a WW 2 Vet my Father who refuses to give in or give up he has kept us all inline even his great grandchildren he lives for what he believes in and he believes in this country he loves it served it and will die for it just like my Father long healthy life to him may his story live a long time in many peoples lives inspiring them to do what is right

  5. Marc Angellis    

    Amazing! What a true countryman! You are the reason I’m proud to be an American! I thank you and my kids thank you for your service and your continuing dedication to serving the good of our country! You gotta be tough as nails and you obviously have a heart of gold! And thanks to all your brothers and sisters in arms who served in WWII! We all owe your generation a debt that cannot possibly be repaid!

  6. Joyce Riddle    

    I couldn’t find enough words that honor you. My dad was a world war II veteran he served in the army. I am not of all our country’s men and women who serves. I never got to know my dad . I was 2 yrs old when his past. He didn’t die in the service but not to long after he came home. He died of a coronary thrombosis at age 39. I am now searching through the Internet for information about my dad. I really to this day ern to know him and what he was like. I have nothing but medals and an older picture. My heart has such hole in it. Maybe I will never be able to fill it. But you inspired me to keep on keeping on. Thank you for everything from our hearts to your. May God bless you to continue on with great health and your. In the name of Jesus amen.

  7. Glen R. Gustafson    

    The thought of such an effort is DAUNTING. The fact that Corpsman Andress is succeeding is beyond belief. As a Viet Nam Vet, I want to be in Brunswick,Ga. when the journey leaves us all in AWE. What a tribute to the many who have fallen in the line of duty to our great nation. Every veteran should aspire to salute and memorialize Ernest Andrus for his life of continued dedication. Glen R. Gustafson 2/4 1965-66 Viet Nam.

  8. Eric P Frasher    

    You are a ROCK STAR, IMHO…

    May your journey have fair weather and calm seas for the rest of your most awesome show of strength and courage rest in the minds and hearts of our fellow country men and women of the United States of America

    Most importantly in youth of this GREAT NATION so that they can better understand the importance of OUR Military and their Families…

    Thanks Brother In Arms Andrus!!!

    Keep on keeping on…

  9. Deb Blanchard    

    Great story!! Best wishes Mr. Andrus.

  10. Malcolm J    

    I was born April 1955….10 yrs after this Hero came home. I joined the Navy in 1972, having to have my parents sign for me to go in…anyway…I’ve always always admired WWll Vets with the greatest admiration. This gentleman hero is why. I sure wish he would have landed in Ct., I would have loved to meet this great man.

  11. Rick Slankard    

    wow 92 and running great . i just hope i make to 92 muhaaa….. but really great job….bravo zulu great job…..keep it up,I’m with ya….and thanks for your service….and yes we all need to keep the storys going on Wll ….

  12. Heidi Myers    

    Very inspiring. Thank you for all you’ve done and are continuing to do, Mr. Andrus. May the rest of your journey to the East Coast go smoothly!

  13. bencloppick    

    This makes me feel like a wimp. I have no excuse. 92 years old??? Corpsman Ernest Andrus personifies the word “Hero.” Well done, Corpsman . . . God bless you.

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