ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - A 93-year-old World War II veteran has inspired the nation after finishing a 2,600-plus-mile trek across America in Saint Simons Island Saturday.
Ernie Andrus began his coast-to-coast run with his toes in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, California, nearly three years ago.
More than 200 island residents and visitors, equipped with encouraging signs, flags, and patriotic attire, cheered on Andrus as he reached his goal at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
"Run, Ernie, Run!" yelled the crowd, as his cross-country journey made in honor of an unsung WWII hero came to an end.
Andrus hoped to raise money and awareness to bring LST 325, a WWII-era Landing Ship Tank back to Normandy for a D-Day Memorial service in 2019. It's the only World War II vessel of its kind restored and fully operational left in existence.
He is now the oldest person in America to achieve this incredible feat, one day after his 93rd birthday.
"To see a 93-year old man run across the country... If he can do that, you can do anything," said Mark Wrathall, traveled from California.
He says it all started with a relay race and a love for running.
"If an 88-year-old man gets this much attention in a relay race, how about a 90-year-old running coast to coast? So I decided right there, I'm gonna do it," said Ernie Andrus, runner.
Andrus didn't just run to make history - he ran to honor it.
"Give some people credit that built them and then sailed on them. You know almost ever serviceman has been on one. You know between WWII and Vietnam. And now there's none left," said Andrus.
This crowd is giving all the credit to Ernie.
"It's just too many emotions to even describe. It was amazing. It was amazing...I'm so proud of Ernie," said Chandra Kendall, coordinator.
Andrus ran 3 times a week to finish on time.
"This was great. A lot of mixed emotions because I hate to see it end. I was having so much fun, but I was so glad to put my foot in that ocean and know I made it," said Ernie Andrus.
He says inspiring people is the best part.
"I like that. It's a good feeling when people tell me that."