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How to honor the courage and sacrifice of those who’ve protected you

Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring those who’ve died while serving the United States Armed Forces. The holiday is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May and it is considered the unofficial start of summer vacation in the United States.

Many people honor the fallen on this day with two popular traditions. One tradition is for volunteers to put American flags on each grave in national cemeteries. The other is the National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause in an act of national unity for one minute at 3pm. Of course, you don’t have to participate in either of these traditions to observe this holiday, and, in truth, many people don’t. Most people choose to spend their day honoring with loved ones and enjoying a little sun. BigFish lets you honor in a unique way, by supporting those who commemorate every day. BigFish brings you spirits from several veteran-owned-and-operated independent distilleries that give back to the veterans community. Perhaps our most shining example is 4 Spirits Distillery.

4 Spirits Distillery was founded in 2011 by Dawson Officer in order to honor all service members past and present with the creation of superior craft spirits. It’s named specifically after four fallen soldiers Dawson served with in the Oregon Army National Guard, Delta Company, 2-162 Infantry Regiment. They lost their lives in 2004 while serving in Baghdad, Iraq.  

While the distillery produces a full line of award-winning spirits, like whiskeys, rums, a vodka, and a cucumber gin, one specific product pays tribute to the lives of the fallen service members. That product is 4 Spirits Bourbon Whiskey. 4 Spirits donates 10% of each Bourbon Whiskey sold to local veteran reintegration programs in states where it’s distributed. They are focused on programs that help veterans with education and mental health care.

Here are the details on this smooth drinking bourbon:

4 Spirits Bourbon Whiskey

Strong notes of caramel and vanilla

80 Proof, 40% ABV


The centerpiece of the 4 Spirits Distillery collection, it has won a wide audience of fans for its dedication to local veteran reintegration programs. The best way to enjoy this bourbon is in a 2nd Battalion Old Fashioned.

Learn more about 4 Spirits Distillery here.

But that’s not all. We reached out to all of our partner distilleries with veterans in prominent positions and asked them to share their stories as best they could. Many chose to stay silent and we respect that decision. For the ones who responded, here are their unaltered responses.

4 Spirits Distillery

“Dawson Officer, the owner and distiller at 4 Spirits served in the Oregon Army National Guard. Our small team consists of many who are family of veterans, but Dawson is the only combat veteran onsite at our facility. We also employ many students from Oregon State University and one of our tasting room employees is active in the Air Force ROTC program. Dawson served in the Oregon Army National Guard, Delta Company, 2-162 Infantry Regiment. He was deployed in 2003 to Baghdad, Iraq and served in combat until his return in 2005. The distillery name as a whole is a memorial and commemorates the four fallen soldiers and friends that Dawson served with in Delta Company. They lost their lives in 2004. Every aspect of our business and many of our products reflect this and pay tribute to past and present service members in a variety of ways. We make it our daily mission at 4 Spirits to remember the lives of the four men that our distillery is dedicated to, as well as to recognize all service members who have lost their lives. We act each day to raise awareness of the sacrifices of service members, and also to support the needs of combat veterans returning from service. The drive and focus that it takes to build a distillery from the ground up stems partly from Dawson’s ingrained personality, but much of the mindset comes from experiences while serving. Being adaptable, resourceful and efficient in many ways has helped the business succeed and has helped Dawson to stay the course during the challenging times. Not only is 4 Spirits a memorial to four combat soldiers, but it is a mechanism to raise awareness of the challenges that so many returning combat veterans face in our society. One of our main goals is to support local veteran reintegration programs in the communities where our products are sold. Each quarter, 4 Spirits donates 10% of all Bourbon sales to local programs that support veteran health and education in the states where we are sold. Our biggest accomplishment to date is the recent funding of the 4 Spirits Scholarship Endowment Fund at Oregon State University. Funded completely by our Bourbon giving program, we will begin rewarding scholarships to combat veterans at OSU in fall of 2019! This will help the recipients to cover a large portion of their school expenses, giving the much-needed boost to those looking to further their education and to thrive after service.”

~Dawson Officer, founder

Dragon Distillery

“We are a disabled veteran-owned distillery. I am a disabled veteran who served in the Navy for almost 10 years. I was an Arabic linguist and served overseas as well as on surface and subsurface ships. Our distillery gives 10% off to veterans every day and this year we are bringing out military-themed whiskeys - celebrating each branch of service.”

~Mark Lambert, founder

Falls Church Distillers

“We have two employees who served in the military. Myself, I was USAF, and my bar manager was a Marine. I used that experience to develop some very valuable organizational and motivational skills that I apply to running a distillery. For the third year in a row, we are hosting a festival to raise money to support our military service persons and their families. This year's event sends 'Boxes of Home' to deployed U.S. Military with a focus on those not receiving support.”

~Michael Paluzzi, founder

Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery

“Two of our employees are vets; Marc Chretien (Managing Partner) and Ed Jenkins (tasting room manager and the production manager for the cidery side of the business). Marc Chretien was a paratrooper in the Army 82nd Airborne for three years in his younger days, and more recently served the military in a civilian capacity as a State Department Political Advisor to Marine Senior Officers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. On his last tour, he served as the Political Advisor to General John Allen, commander of all international forces in Afghanistan. Ed Jenkins, an Air Force academy graduate, retired as a Major after a career in the Air Force. After spending 7 years in an active combat zone, Marc decided to open a distillery as a more contemplative pursuit where he could enjoy the quiet pleasures that developing fine craft spirits can bring. Marc had a good friend from a Chicago who died in Fallujah on Memorial Day. He spends time privately mourning his death every year on that day.”

~Peter Ahlf, founder

Roberson’s Tennessee MelloMoon

“I served in the United States Navy from ‘92 to ‘96. I am a Gulf War veteran, however, I never really saw combat compared to some other people that did. I was stationed on the USS Belknap CG 26. It was stationed in Italy. Then I was stationed on the USS Saipan LHA 2. Which was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. I was a boiler technician and on the Saipan. I ran the ship’s distillation units to make freshwater from saltwater. That was where I got my experience in distillation along with my experience with boilers and heat exchange. My rank was Boiler Technician 3rd Class Petty Officer. I try to do as many things as I can for veterans as the pocketbook allows. I also have a friend who does a whole lot for veterans especially with the Army Airborne and once or twice a year she brings them to Bristol Motor Speedway and then to our distillery and we give them private tours and tastings. The last one we had in April, it was actually all the Vietnam Hamburger Hill veterans which are very few now. I definitely believe if it wasn't for my experience in the Navy then I would not be a distiller today.”

~Tiny Roberson, founder

Nightside Distillery

“Only one of us served. I am the owner, operator, and everything else! For my first four years, I was active duty Air Force at McChord AFB as a firefighter. I then joined the reserves, as a firefighter and still at McChord, and eventually made it up to Battalion Chief. They eliminated my position three years ago, as the Army took over at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and all the Air Force firefighters were forced out. I served in Egypt in 1996 and Kirkuk, Iraq. I am currently a Senior Master Sergeant stationed at the San Francisco Airport as a Postal NCO. I ensure packages that are being delivered to troops in Japan and Korea are getting there. As I have traveled around the world, I have been able to experience many different cultures. This has led to me being able try different spirits and learn different distilling styles. Someone in my family has served in every major war since World War II. We at Nightside support many charities, particularly first responder and military organizations, to include "Send a Vet," where we recently donated a "Day With the Distiller" and raised almost $1000!”

~Raymond Bunk

Three Rivers Distilling Co.

“Matt Swygart, Distillery Production Manager – employed over 3 years at the distillery. Franklin B. Mevis – employed over 3 years at the distillery. Lindsey Wells, Brand Ambassador – employed 1 week. Matt Swygart, was a Field Radio Operator (2006-2012), DET 1 COMM Co., in Peru, IN. Franklin B. Mevis was a Water Purification Specialist (1971-1974) in Fort Riley, KS. Lindsey Wells, was in the Navy in San Diego, CA. We will be donating 5% of our gross sales on Saturday, May 25 to the local chapter of Disabled American Veterans. Adaptability and attention to detail are critically important skills in the military. These skills are also essential for our work at Three Rivers Distilling Co. in order to produce top quality spirits. When Franklin B., first arrived at Fort Riley, they told him that he needed to fix one of their water purification vehicles, and by fixing that truck, he’d learn everything that he needed to know about water purification. Over the next year, he fixed all of the equipment and painted all parts as they were supposed to be maintained. His vehicle came in first place in the inspection process once he was done. He carried forward that strong ability to learn on the job and pay attention to the details at the distillery.”

Willie’s Distillery

“Following his service as an Army Ranger in the 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Special Forces Medic in 19th Special Forces Group, Willie Blazer was driven to take on a new challenge: establishing a small-batch distillery in the picturesque fly fishing town of Ennis, Montana. Through Willie's determination and work ethic instilled during his service in the Armed Forces, Willie's Distillery has grown to be the top-selling Montana distillery in its home state. Willie's Distillery is proud to have additional Armed Forces veterans on staff, ranging from positions in Production to Sales and Management. Patrick Griffith, Montana State Sales Manager, served in the Marine Corps with the India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, as well as the Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Iraq and Southeast Asia. "Buzz" Montalvo, Distiller, served in the Army with the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group in Iraq, Afghanistan, and South America. Year-round, Willie's works closely with area veteran-focused charities like Horses and Heroes, Big Sky Bravery, the Montana Special Forces Association, and local VFW and American Legion outposts to support their causes. We are honored to be visited by veterans of the Armed Forces and First Responder groups from around the country and the world, and proudly feature patches, challenge coins, and awards from these visitors in our Tasting Room. Willie's Distillery was voted the "Veteran Owned Business of The Year" for Montana in 2018 by Headwaters RC&D. This Memorial Day, Willie and members of the Willie's Distillery team will honor the fallen by participating in Honor Guard ceremonies at local cemeteries and support local VFW and American Legion fundraising efforts.”