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Photo: Harold Garrish

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Local World War 2 veteran Harold Garrish turned 98 years old on Veteran’s Day.  You better believe he’s a character and this weekend he’ll be celebrating his birthday by skydiving.

Make sure to tune into WWAY this Sunday at 6 and 11 for the video of his latest adventure.  In the meantime, check out this story WWAY’s Daniel Seamans did as he prepared for his 96 birthday dance!

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November 11th, 2013….

A local man is celebrating Veterans Day in an extraordinary way.

This World War II sailor is putting the finishing touches on his own song and dance.

Harold Garrish can do the waltz, tango, swing, cha cha. The list goes on. He won top male student in the Myrtle Beach Ballroom Challenge.

Oh yeah, this World War II turned 95 years old this morning on the dance floor.

“I had the skate of a hippopotamus,” Garrish says of his dancing talent. “I couldn’t dance a stroke”

“This man calls me on the phone and says he wants some dance lessons,” instructor Babs McDance said.

Garrish said, “Babs will tell you I’m the slowest learner in the world”

For a 95-year-old, this veteran is doing just fine.

“He comes to private lessons every day,” McDance said. “He comes to group lessons several hours every night. We have a party every Friday night, and Harold is here.”

He’s quite the dancer, but rewind to 1940, and Harold Garrish led a far different lifestyle. He was a commissioned reserve officer in the US Navy. In December 1941, he was based in Hawaii.

“I heard the rattle of gunfire,” Garrish said of a Sunday morning long ago. “I thought this is strange: live gunfire at Pearl Harbor.”

Yes, Pearl Harbor. Garrish says he was headed to the beach when the attack began.

“It flew right over my head,” he said. “I looked up, I said, ‘Expletive deleted, Japs!’ And at that time the torpedo hit, and the (USS) Arizona burst into flames.”

He would then be assigned to decifer Japanese coded messages, spend six months in Europe with the British fleet, and then back to the Pacific, where he would close out his time in the Navy.

Now, on Veterans Day, his actual birthday, he puts the finishing touches on a special dance.

“It’s a catchy tune, I thought, and it fits me to a T: ‘She’s funny that way,'” Garrish said. “It starts out, ‘I’m not good looking. It’s easy to see.’ I thought, here I am.”

Tomorrow evening Garrish and his teacher McDance will perform in front of some 90 people at a special birthday party in his honor.

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