Wolves at the Door/Thank You Sheepdogs

This letter was written by Charles Grennel and his comrades, veterans of the Global War on Terror.
Grennel is an Army Reservist who spent two years in
Iraq and was a principal in putting together the first Iraq elections in
January 2005. It was written to Jill Edwards, student at the University of
Washington , who did not want to honor Medal of Honor winner USMC Colonel
Greg Boyington. Ms. Edwards and other students and faculty do not think
those who serve in the U.S. Armed Services are good role models.

To: Jill Edwards, Student, University of Washington

Subject: Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs

Miss Edwards, I read of your student activity regarding the proposed
memorial to Colonel Greg Boyington, USMC and a Medal of Honor winner. I
suspect you will receive many angry emails from conservative people like me.
You may be too young to appreciate fully the sacrifices of generations of
servicemen and servicewomen, on whose shoulders you and your fellow students
stand. I forgive you for the untutored ways of youth and your naiveté. It
may be that you are simply a sheep. There’s no dishonor in being a sheep, as
long as you know and accept what you are.

William J. Bennett, in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November
24, 1997 said, ‘Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind,
gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident. We
may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still
remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people, not
capable of hurting each other except by accident or under extreme
provocation. They are sheep.

Then there are the wolves who feed on the sheep without mercy. Do you
believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy?
You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable
of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you
become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

Then there are sheepdogs and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and
confront the wolf. If you have no capacity for violence and you are a
healthy productive citizen, you are a sheep. If you have a capacity for
violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an
aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence,
and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog,
a warrior, someone who is walking the unchartered path. Someone who can walk
into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out

We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They
do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the
fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire
sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kid’s schools. But
many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in
their kid’s school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be
killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s
only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone
coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard. So they choose the path
of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf.
He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that
the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog
who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and
removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a
representative democracy or a republic such as ours. Still, the sheepdog
disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the
land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them
traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports, in camouflage
fatigues, holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog
cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go Baa. That is, until the
wolf shows up, and then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind
one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough,
know-it-all high school students, and under ordinary circumstances would not
have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they
just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however,
and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to
physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them.

This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at
the door. Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf
pounded hard on the door. Remember how America , more than ever before, felt
differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel?
Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it
is just what you choose to be.

Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter. He is always sniffing
around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go
bump in the night and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young
sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older
and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed, right along
with the young ones. Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think
differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog
lives for that day.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most
citizens in America said ‘Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.’ The
sheepdogs, the warriors, said, ‘Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of
those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.’ You want to be able to
make a difference. There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the
warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he
is able to survive and thrive in an environment that would destroy 98
percent of the population.

Research was conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent
crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence:
assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority
said they specifically targeted victims by body language: Slumped walk,
passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big
cats do in Africa , when they select one out of the herd that is least able
to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically
primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose
which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans
are choosing to become sheepdogs. Seven months after the attack on September
11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury , New Jersey .
Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called
on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the
hijacking. When they learned of the other three passenger planes that had
been used as weapons, Todd and the other passengers confronted the terrorist
hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers –
athletes, business people and parents – from sheep to sheepdogs and together
they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of l
ives on the

Edmund Burke said ‘There is no safety for honest men except by believing all
possible evil of evil men.’ Here is the point I want to emphasize,
especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each
year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born
that way, and so are wolves. They don’t have a choice. But you are not a
critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a
conscious, moral decision. If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a
sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the
wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a
sheepdog there to protect you.

If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to
hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if
you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a
conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare
yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes
knocking at the door.

This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It
is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a
continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other
end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the
other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in
America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a
few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors
started taking their job more seriously.

Its OK to be a sheep, but do not kick the sheepdog. Indeed, the sheepdog may
just run a little harder, strive to protect a little better and be fully
prepared to pay an ultimate price in battle and spirit with the sheep moving
from ‘baa’ to ‘thanks’.

We do not call for gifts or freedoms beyond our lot. Just like the sheepdog,
we in the military just need a small pat on the head, a smile and a thank
you to fill the emotional tank which is drained protecting the sheep.

And, when our number is called by The Almighty, and day retreats into night,
a small prayer before the heavens just may be in order to say thanks for
letting you continue to be a sheep. And be grateful for the millions of
American sheepdogs who permit you the freedom to express even bad ideas.

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