Click On MEMORIAL DAY
“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 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: 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 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
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
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
is walking the unchartered 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
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
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
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
Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer
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. 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.