This letter was written by Charles Grennel and his comrades who are
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, January of 2005. It was written to Jill Edwards, a
student at the University of Washington who did not want to honor Medal
of Honor recipient USMC Colonel Greg Boyington a University of
Washington alumni’s, prior to a planned ceremony early February 2008.
Ms. Edwards and other students (and faculty) do not think those who
serve in the U.S. armed services are good role models.
To: Edwards, Jill (student, UW)
Subject: Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs
Miss Edwards, I read of your student activity regarding the proposed
memorial to Col. Greg Boyington, USMC and a Medal of Honor winner. I
suspect you will receive a bellyful of angry e-mails from conservative
folks 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
naivete. 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 who are not capable of hurting each
other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
Then there are the wolves and the wolves 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 then
you are a healthy productive citizen, 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 uncharted path.
Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal
human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
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 kids 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, and so they chose 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, can not and will not ever harm
the sheep. Any sheep dog 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. Until the wolf shows up; then the entire flock tries
desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high
school students, and under ordinary circumstances they 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 destroys 98 percent of the population.
There was research 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 that 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
lives on the ground.
/There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil
of evil men. Edmund Burke/
/Only// the dead have seen the end of war. Plato
Here is the point I like 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 didn’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 sheep dog 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. It’s OK to be a sheep, but do not kick the sheep dog.
Indeed, the sheep dog 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. We 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 thousands, millions of
American sheepdogs who permit you the freedom to express even bad ideas.
/May God richly bless all the Sheepdogs of America!/