Let Freedom Ring

Written by John Garrett

As Memorial Day came and went, it again reminded me of how deeply I appreciate the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their all for the service of our country. My heart goes out to the Gold Star Families whose loved ones did not return from the battles and conflicts (americasgoldstarfamilies.org).

I am proud of the members of all branches of our military, especially those members of the military who have gone into harm’s way to secure our freedoms, and also all of those veterans who fulfilled their duty to our country but never saw actual combat. I salute each and every one of them and thank each every one for their service, because without them, all of our lives would be drastically lessened.

And now we have one of my favorite holidays of the year, July Fourth, coming up soon. This year I will celebrate this holiday in the Syracuse, N.Y., area as my Paws (grandfather) and I will be practicing for the second Bassmaster Northern Open tournament to be held on Oneida Lake July 7-9.

Oneida Lake has both largemouth and smallmouth bass populations along with a lot of submerged vegetation in both the shallow and deep portions of the lake. I will depend on what I find during practice days to decide whether to focus my efforts on largemouth or smallmouth for the tournament. It will be exciting either way on this great fishery.

My Paws, whose real name is Johnny Garrett, is so kind and humble. He never wavered when called to duty to serve in the Vietnam conflict. His giving and caring nature continues each day, nurturing family members or anyone he meets that needs help.

I am truly blessed that he spent so many hours when I was young, teaching me about fishing, beginning when I was only 5 years old and continuing even today. When I was little, I can remember him letting me try to catch some catfish in the small pond behind his house. I thought that only he and I knew the secret bait to use for catfish. Little did I know that the catfish would bite for anyone who would cast a piece of hotdog on a hook into the pond waters.

From multiple backlashes in fishing reels (I was told to call them professional overruns) to expensive lures hung up and stuck out of my reach in tree branches, bushes or stumps, my Paws was patient and gently handed me his fishing rod to use while he got my lure loose or corrected my backlash. Often by the time he had my mistakes corrected, I made a similar mistake using his rod and reel, but he never complained — at least where I could hear him.

He has also dedicated much of his time in recent years to helping me compete professionally on the Bassmaster Opens tour and in guiding for duck hunting near Reelfoot Lake. For the 2022 Bassmaster Open season, he is fishing all the Opens as a co-angler and traveling to each tournament and practicing with me. We share the ups and downs, and all the exciting adventures in-between, on each and every trip. We are both looking forward to the Oneida Lake Open event.

In summary, I hope we can all pause for a moment during the July Fourth weekend to remember how our country won its freedom and the sacrifices made to keep our country free. God Bless America!