Saluting Our Nation’s ‘Sheepdogs’
Wednesday - November 09, 2005
I begin my salute to veterans with excerpts from a seminar, “The Bulletproof Mind,” by Lt. Col. David Grossman, retired Army Ranger, West Point psychology professor, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, and pre-eminent police and military trainer:
One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: “Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.
“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “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,” he went on, “and I’m a sheep-dog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”
Simplistic as it is, this sheep-wolf-sheepdog analogy pretty much sums up the lot of us. Much as I’d love to be a sheepdog, I think I’m destined to be a sheep who loves sheep-dogs. The old veteran left out that class of folks: those who love sheepdogs. I believe most Americans are proud of those among us who, as Grossman puts it, “have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens ...” We don’t really understand the sheepdog and may fear him a little, but when the wolf’s knocking, we want him to come when we whistle.
Over the history of our country, America’s military has fought wars for freedom and over boundaries, fought back wolves of oppression and even fought fellow Americans over the evil of slavery or for economic survival. Others fought against evil ideology that threatened freedom at home and abroad. Many fought to protect the “sheep” from slaughter. Whatever the cause, our veterans - shield-ers of the flock - have never shied from the fray.
Today’s soldiers, sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen stand as tall dogs in the company of the military heroes of our country’s illustrious history - past “sheep-dogs” who’ve kept wolves away and our freedoms intact.
Gen. George Washington was our nation’s original “sheepdog,” who against all odds led against the most powerful nation on earth - and won. John Paul Jones, America’s “first great fighting sailor,” rallied his men to victory against the British Mano’-War shouting, “I have not yet begun to fight.” Gen. John J. Pershing, a World War I hero, led the U.S. Army in critical breakthrough battles to defeat the Germans.
Heroes of the air, Eddie Rickenbacker, Billy Mitchell and Jimmy Doolittle in World War I (and WWII), were the inspiration for future American air superiority. World War II’s military leaders, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, George Patton and others led the Allied Forces to defeat the wolves in Europe and the Pacific.
Admirals Chester Nimitz and William “Bull” Halsey fought the treacherous battles in the Pacific that protected our beautiful shores and way of life. Westmoreland, Powell, Schwarzkopf, Franks - all tough military leaders, who have walked the hero’s walk.
These are a few illustrious top “dogs” of America’s history, but every veteran who’s donned the uniform and served honorably is a top dog, because they go - even before the call.
“Sheepdogs” are Special Forces, and they’re Marines - a special force. They’re infantry and artillery. They’re sailors who keep ships ship shape. They’re truck drivers, mechanics and Seabees, the builders for fellow dogs. They’re “helo” transport and bomber pilots, tanker drivers and jet jockeys. They’re MPs. They drive armored vehicles and tanks. They dismantle IEDs, destroy enemy weapons, put out fires and call in air strikes. They care for carrier decks. And they train.
They’re the National Guard and the Reserves. They’re the Coast Guard who protect from seafaring wolves. They are doctors, nurses and medics. They’re DIA - the “spook"dogs. They feed our forces and they type reports. They support wives, husbands and children. And our communities.
Veterans do jobs we hear little about. They rescue flood and earthquake victims and bring them supplies. They build schools and playgrounds and repair parking lots in neighborhood parks. They help with charity events and read to children. They coach Iraqi and Afghan children in soccer and baseball between battles.
They’re Medal of Honor winners, POWs and amputees. They’re our next-door neighbors, grandfathers, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters. They live out their lives in VA hospitals and they work in every field.
They serve without pats on the head. Throw them a bone or not, they still join up to go get the wolves.
That’s just who they are. And I’m in awe. Thank you, veterans, every single one.
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