LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Ernest Andrus is looking to save the last workable LST ship from World War 2.
His solution is to walk coast to coast and raise money for the project along the way.
"People should realize this ship is the ship that won the war," Andrus said. "That's why they built so many of them. They built 1,051 of them in WWII."
Andrus entered the military as a PhM3/c, with his first assignment being on the USS Rochambeau.
"We would take the troops over and bring the wounded back," Andrus said.
After his stint on the Rochambeau, Andrus would then serve on LST 124.
"I spent the last half of the war island hopping," Andrus said. "Taking back all the islands from the Japanese."
Now 92 years old, Andrus is trying to save the last working LST ship. LST 325 is currently docked in Evansville Indiana. The ship was used in Europe during the war. According to the ship's memorial Website, LST 325 was involved in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. After its time in the U.S. Navy, the ship was reactivated in 1963 and transferred to Greece in May 1964. In 2000, the ship was acquired by USS Ship Memorial Inc., and was brought back to the States.
Andrus is just one of many people giving their time to raise funds for the project to restore the ship. Andrus started his journey in October 2013. He plans on ending his run in Georgia in the next two years.
"I put one foot in the Pacific Ocean and started running," Andrus said. "I don't walk. I run. I run slow, so people running with me are able to keep up."
Andrus said he has only taken seven weeks off during his journey.
"My wife did not want me to go, but I said I wanted to, so she let me," Andrus said. "I was running and I got a call that my wife had a stroke so I went back home and held her hand for a week until she died. I think she would be happy for what I am doing."
Andrus said during his travels he has met many people and most of the time has people join him on his run.
"It's been fun all the way," Andrus said. "I've had about two or three runs that were not fun because of the cold weather. Outside of that, it has been all fun. I meet a lot of people along the way, and I leave them. Sometimes, they catch back up with me and run again."
As Andrus passed the sign indicating 13 miles to Lufkin, he did so with Rusk residents Amy and Jody Tylich.
"To me, he is very inspiring," Amy said. "He makes my heart happy when I think about him."
For Jody, the five-and-a-half mile run was something he will never forget.
"I could talk to him all day," Jody said. "He has an amazing life experience I will never know anything about."
The Tylichs hope others will pick up where they left off and continue to run with Andrus as he makes his way through the Pineywoods. Andrus' next run will be Saturday August 22. The run will start at 6:45 p.m. st Clemsa Lumber on US Highway 69 and conclude at Cross Timbers Cowboy Church. Andrus is expecting to make his way into Lufkin by Monday.
For more on Andrus and his run, click here.
For more on LST 325, click here.