A 90-year-old World War II veteran sets off Monday on the Phoenix leg of his coast-to-coast run to raise funds for a landmark ship memorial.
Ernie Andrus started embarking on his mission on Oct. 7 near San Diego. He said he plans to reach the Atlantic in another three years or so.
"I run my first half marathon when I was 87. I run my second one when I was 89," said Andrus.
He didn't start running for recreation until after he retired at 64 years old.
Monday's 7 1/2-mile trek that starts at 6:30 a.m. will take him from R.H. Johnson Boulevard and Grand Avenue in Sun City to Del Web Boulevard and Grand.
On his cross-country trip, Andrus runs three days a week, about 7 1/2 miles a day.
"Found out the oldest guy who's ever done it was in his 70's. I thought, well, I'll be the first 90 year old man to do it," Andrus said.
He's doing it to raise money for the LST 325 Ship Memorial, Inc. He was one of the crew that brought the tank landing ship back from the Isle of Crete, Greece, to the U.S. in 2000-2001.
The organization wants to return the Navy vessel to Normandy in 2019 for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Andrus said 1,051 LSTs were built during World War II. It participated in the invasion of Sicily, Salerno and Normandy. During the Normandy invasion, it made 40 roundtrips between England and France carrying troops, supplies and wounded.
The LST 325 is the only one left that has been restored and is still operational.
He said he welcomes any runners who would like to join him on any leg of his ambitious journey.
On running days he leaves his motor home early without eating breakfast, powered only by a cup of coffee.
Getting back to his home on wheels each day isn't ever a problem.
"I know I can stick out my thumb and the first person to come by will give me a ride. They won't pass up this old man out there, you know," said Andrus.
People wishing to sponsor him can send contributions payable to "Coast to Coast Runs" at 304 Brooklawn Dr., Banning, CA 92220.
Andrus turns 91 in August and hopes to touch the Atlantic Ocean in Brunswick, Georgia before he turns 94.
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