D-Day. June 6, 1944.
Seventy-four years ago today, my father-in-law, Garland Crook, got his feet wet—literally and figuratively–entering combat in World War II by going ashore on Normandy Beach.
Today Jeff and I are going to try to keep him from getting his feet wet as we help him into the boat on the Missouri River. We’re going fishing.
Garland’s an American hero, and there aren’t many left who participated in that fateful day. I’ve asked him about it, and he’s talked about it from time to time, but he’s not eager to bring it up. Today, though, in a boat, like he was on June 6, 1944, maybe he’ll feel like talking. Last time I asked him, he just said “Jim, we were a bunch of scared kids.”
Garland was 19 years old that day. He survived Normandy Beach, and became a career soldier. He spent his working life in the United States Army, serving during three wars—WW II, Korea and Vietnam. He retired to a farm in North Dakota, then retired from farming, and now lives not far from his daughter Lillian and me in Bismarck.
Garland loves to fish. Every summer for the past four or five years since he moved to Bismarck, we’ve gotten him in the boat. It’s not easy, for us or for him. Every winter, over supper, I tell him we can’t wait to get him out in the boat again next summer. Every winter he says “Jim, I’m afraid my fishing days are over.”
Then summer comes, and I call him and say “Garland, are you interested in fishing tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I’m interested,” he’ll respond, “but I’m not sure I can do it. Let me get back to you.”
The “get back to you” part takes about 15 minutes—a little longer this year, because it took him longer to get out to the garage, either in his wheelchair or using his walker, to check to make sure his rods and reels and tackle box made it through another winter.
Then my phone rings and he says “What time?”
10 a.m. today. I’ll report in.
3 p.m. Update: When you’re 93, not every day is a good day. Today wasn’t a good day for Garland. He hasn’t been feeling well for a few days, but got caught up in enthusiasm last night and agreed to go. This morning, reality set in. He’s going to the doctor tomorrw to find out what’s wrong, besides being 93. We’ll get him out there one of these days when he feels better. Meanwhile, Jeff and I caught a limit of walleyes. We’re not telling Garland. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!