I recently returned from a trip to the Washington D.C. area; a trip I had wanted to go on for quite some time. Being a lover of American history, it seemed only natural for there to be a desire within me to visit such a place. An opportunity came about that I couldn’t pass up and so I booked my flight and started researching all the places I wanted to visit during the 8 days I would be there. There certainly was no shortage of things to do and places to see from all accounts.

If you’re wondering what my trip to our nations’ capital has to do with fly fishing, than you’re probably not alone; I wondered myself. I spent a full week walking around that city seeing everything I could, trying not to miss out on anything. I accomplished what I set out to do and returned home feeling satisfied and a bit tired of the hustle and bustle of the east coast quite frankly. What impressed me most about the D.C. area wasn’t the countless museums or all the national monuments and buildings; which are incredible in their own right. It wasn’t our majestic Capital building or even the White House; but when I stepped foot onto the soil at Arlington National Cemetery, I felt such a powerful emotion come over me; and in that moment I knew I was standing on sacred ground. In that instant, I gained a perspective about life and freedom that I had not previously experienced to such degree. There, before my very eyes, stood the identical marble headstones of countless, fallen American soldiers all in perfect alignment as far as I could see in every direction. This ground held the bodies of real life heroes of the past, and all I could feel in the time I walked among those headstones was a deep sense of gratitude, patriotism, and sadness. Gratitude toward those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so I could continue to live in freedom. Patriotism for the pride I felt knowing that I am beyond blessed to live in a country “with liberty and justice for all.” Sadness for the families of these brave soldiers who willingly gave up their lives for others. Even now, as I feebly attempt to write this short post, I struggle for the proper words to accurately convey the swarm of emotions I felt in that beautiful cemetery of fallen heroes.

At some point during the first day I spent in the cemetery, I became fully aware of how exactly this visit to Arlington tied into my life, my business, and my passions. Everything I have accomplished up until this point in my life, and everything I plan on doing from here on with High On Natives or anything else, was directly related to the symbolism displayed in my surroundings at that cemetery. It wasn’t a new concept or something I hadn’t thought of before, but it came alive to me in a brand new way while actually there in person. I looked around me and saw first hand what it cost for me to have the luxury of pursuing my dreams and goals.

How do you say “thank you” for that gift? How do you express a heart felt appreciation and respect to the men and women of our armed forces who protect what we cherish most on a daily basis? The words, “thank you,” seem so inappropriate and lacking when compared to what has been given for me. The reality is that I owe so much more to those who have made this sacrifice. The things in my life that I cherish the most would not have been possible to the degree they currently are, if at all, had someone not been willing to die for them.

My perspective changed during my visit to Arlington National Cemetery. I would imagine this would also be true for the vast majority of people who have been there. It’s an experience I will never forget. Those emotions and sights are forever imprinted on my heart and mind. I remind myself of them whenever I find myself complaining about such trivial things as perhaps a wind knot in my tippet line, or slipping on a rock while wading a river that flows through a free land.

My purpose in sharing this personal experience on the east coast of our country, is not to make anyone feel guilty for living their everyday life and pursuing their wildest dreams; just the opposite in fact. My hope is that you too will find yourself more thankful and appreciative of the freedom that we experience every day here in America. A freedom that is all too often taken for granted. May we never forget that far too many souls have died so you and I can live in that freedom each and every day we are upon this earth.

My hope and prayer is that America will never forget this sacrifice. May we continue to promote freedom for this world and to lead by example. America isn’t perfect; no country or human being is. Love for one’s country and fellow man should run deep in the hearts of those who are fortunate enough to live free however. Each one of us has a responsibility as citizens of this country to honor the fallen, and continue to stand for the ideals and principles that have been the bedrock of American exceptionalism, and preserved our freedom for over 200 years. Don’t ever forget that freedom isn’t free. In our fallen world, it comes with a cost; and sometimes that cost, as much as I wish wasn’t true, means that good men and women will lose their lives.

As you get ready to enjoy this holiday weekend with your family and friends, may you never forget that men and women died so you could do just that. There is so much to be thankful for here in this country; most of which I would presume, would not even exist had it not been for the sacrifice of so many brave souls. Memorial day is a day set aside to remember those brave souls and what it costs to enjoy the freedom we live each and every day in America. My personal desire is that it would not just be a day that comes around once a year, but a constant reminder each and every day of how blessed I am. I am fortunate enough to pursue this “High On Natives dream” because someone gave their life for me to have the liberty to dream as big as I want to.

This blog post goes out to all American military members; past, present, and future. Without your sacrifice I could not sit here at my desk and write about this brief experience. As High On Natives grows and continues pursuing the visions and goals we have established for ourselves, we vow to never forget what it cost to provide that opportunity for us. For those of you who wear the uniform of the United States armed forces: WE HONOR YOU. You will always be in our thoughts and prayers. You are America’s heroes.

May we NEVER FORGET.

Land of the free, because of the brave.

*Greg McCrimmon*