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
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 naivete. It may be that you are,
simply, a sheep. Theres 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
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'd 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 school. Our
children are thousands of times more likely to
be killed or seriously injured by school violence
than fire, but the sheep 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
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 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
Only the dead have seen the end of war. Plato
Here is the point I'd 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 warriors 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