Gary Stallard from Angelina College passed along details of a heart-touching event that happened early Thursday morning which involved future first responders from the Angelina College Fire and Police academies.

The cadets joined retired fire fighter John Martin (pictured above in the yellow vest) on part of “Ernie’s Journey.” The coast-to-coast walk first began with nonagenarian and World War II veteran Ernest Andrus and made its way through East Texas recently, with Martin picking up the flag earlier when Andrus grew ill and wasn’t able to continue for now.

Martin credited the cadets not only with their walking efforts but also their willingness to make time in their busy schedules for such a worthy cause.

“As a retired fire fighter myself, it’s awesome to see all this new blood coming into service as first responders,” Martin said. “Not only that, it’s that they have the will and desire to support something like this even with all the training and everything else they have going on right now. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t surprise me. It’s what first responders do.”

Ernest “Ernie” Andrus gained national attention when he set out in 2013 to run from the west coast to the east coast of the United States – and back again. Andrus’ original goal was to raise funds to help restore the ship on which he served as a member of the U.S. Navy during WWII – a ship involved with the D-Day landings at Normandy. Andrus served as a hospital corpsman at the time on the LST 325 Memorial, and he hoped to generate enough interest and funds for the vessel to return to Normandy for the 75th D-Day Anniversary ceremony held in 2019. When the original plan fell through, Andrus continued his journey with a new plan for restoring the old ship.

When illness stopped Andrus’ progress, his travel buddy, Martin, continued in Andrus’ name. Now, the goal for Martin is to make it to the Pacific Ocean on Andrus’ 100th birthday in August, 2023.

AC instructor Sabrina Collins has met Andrus and has participated with Martin’s travels; she helped coordinate this week’s meeting between Martin and the AC cadets.

My sister and I ‘ran’ with Ernie several times on his first coast-to-coast run, and we got to run with him again this time just before he returned to California,” Collins said. “We've continued with John since he returned [to East Texas], but our schedules don't always allow us to join him. John records some of the events and posts them for Ernie to see on social media.

“I know it will make Ernie super happy to see the cadets out here.”

Gary Stallard/Angelina College Photo
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