I’ll start by stating I’m not running for president of the United States. I consciously avoid alarmist reactions. I know that 24-hour cable news is at best, only one part information and two parts entertainment, and I truly believe American ideals apply to all people regardless of age, sex, race or creed.
That said, I too have been moved by what happened Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California, maybe more so than any similar event since Sept. 11, 2001.
I was reminded of the warnings of nationalists who said Americans will begin to be more and more vulnerable here at home instead of abroad. I was reminded of the prophecies of pundits that an increasing number of terror plots would eventually originate from within our borders than from failed foreign states. Most of all, I was reminded of Army retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s essay titled “On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs.”
Grossman’s controversial essay discusses the fundamental theme of violence using a flock of sheep to metaphorically represent civilized society, the vast majority of which are not inclined to hurt one another. Expanding that metaphor, he connects the decency of the flock with the wolf, which represents evil and feeds on the flock without mercy.
The events in San Bernardino reminded me evil does exist.
I don’t need to remind you our Air Force faces a number of internal challenges, resiliency, resource shortfalls, retention and lack of professional development opportunities. Each of these seems to constantly compete for and often exhaust our attention on a daily basis. However, the events of Dec. 2 should serve to instead remind us of where our focus must remain. The events of the day have convinced me we can never neglect the reality that the wolves are knocking at the door.
I find strength in the existence of the sheepdog. In Grossman’s essay, the sheepdog exists to protect the sheep and confront the wolves. The sheepdog represents the warrior, and is the first one the sheep look to when the wolf shows up. It represents warriors like you who keep our world as safe as it is and are the only chance anyone has of defeating the evil threatening civilized humanity. The existence of people like you is also what keeps me serving.
There isn’t enough money, performance report stats or 5s, choice assignments, or even “thank yous” to recognize all of your efforts. Yet, you still serve. You’re still here, exactly where I think we need Americans of exceptional quality. You tolerate all of the imperfections of your career choice to protect those unable or unwilling to defend themselves. You are the sheepdog who stands watch not because of what you personally stand to gain but rather in spite of all you might lose, acknowledging the threat is too real to ignore or forget.