The first time I read LTC Dave Grossman’s On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs, it resonated with me. Grossman theorizes that society consists of three categories of people. Sheep, who are gentle and harmless. Wolves, who hunt and destroy the Sheep. And Sheepdogs, who stand at the ready to protect the Sheep from the Wolves.
The Sheepdogs look and sound a lot like the Wolves. They are vicious and deadly when provoked. They are always checking the perimeters, sniffing the air, on the lookout for danger. They are lethal in defense of their sheep.
Even though I’m the sweetest, fluffiest of Sheep, I come from a long line of Sheepdogs.
My Granddad, Albert Banis, served in the Army in World War II. He was a POW in Germany until he was freed by the Russians.
He was the very best kind of Sheepdog. He was lethal at war. But as a Granddad, he was the gentlest of puppy dogs. He always had candy, ice cream and ice cream cones on hand for his grandkids. One of my best memories is Granddad reclining in his Lazy Boy so I could shave him with his electric razor. I don’t know why that tickled me so much, but it did.
One day, all the little girl cousins were playing at his house. Granddad let them put his hair (what little there was) in little piggy tails all over his head. When the UPS man came to the door with a delivery, Granddad sheepishly told the deliveryman that his granddaughters were visiting. That was explanation enough.
That same docile puppy became the fiercest of Sheepdogs, fangs bared, ready for a bloodletting, when confronted with danger. I remember seeing him in a confrontation once with a man who was much younger and taller. It didn’t matter to my Sheepdog Granddad.
Granddad’s gone now, as so many of our WWII Sheepdogs are. His absence leaves an ache in my heart and the hearts of all his kids and grandkids.
Daddy is a Sheepdog, too. He served in the Navy in Vietnam. Daddy doesn’t talk much about his time in Vietnam. But I do remember hearing about the ship he served on in Vietnam.
When Daddy went to Vietnam, I was Mama and Daddy’s only child. After Vietnam, Daddy continued serving in the Navy. Mama, my sisters and I spent days, weeks and months maintaining the home front while Daddy was floating around the world on aircraft carriers.
Somehow when Daddy was around, I always knew we were safe. No matter what happened, I knew Daddy would take are of us.
Like Granddad, Daddy’s starting to mellow, at least around his little granddaughters. We have two three-year-old granddaughters in the family who have their Papa wrapped around their little fingers. Astrid and Zoe love to Facetime or Skype with their Papa.
When Mama and Daddy were visiting the Texas granddaughter over Christmas, they got up early in the morning to start driving to their next destination. When sweet Zoe woke up, she demanded that Grammy bring her Papa back to her, right now!
No matter how much he’s mellowed, Daddy’s still a Sheepdog at heart.
My children’s Daddy is a sheepdog, too. He served twenty-two years in the Marine Corps. There was never a time that I doubted he’d give his life for ours if it came to that.
My baby brother has served two tours in Iraq. He is a gentle, sweet daddy to his two children. He is also a Sheepdog, protecting his country and his family as the need arises.
Our son, the Genius already talks about his desire to serve in the military. I can see my budding Sheepdog, ready to emerge and take his place on the front line so another aging Sheepdog can return to the fold.
Our family has sacrificed so our Sheepdogs can protect the world.
Grandma Banis raised two little boys alone while Granddad was in WWII. She spent six months not knowing if Granddad was alive or dead. For six months, she sent him letters. Every one was returned, stamped MIA. Missing in action.
Mama raised four daughters primarily as a single parent. Even after he returned from Vietnam, Daddy’s tours at sea lasted from a weekend to nine months, and everything in between.
My brother was born a year after Daddy retired. I believe that was God’s plan all along. God saved that boy baby until our Sheepdog Daddy was home for good.
My children and I spent years at a time without their daddy, while he served his country in other cities, states and countries.
My brother is medically retired from the Army, one of many of our modern day Sheepdogs suffering from PTSD. His daughter was born while he was in Iraq.
I love my Sheepdogs. I get to live my life as a carefree Sheep because they are standing by to protect me.
Thank you, Granddad.
Thank you, Daddy.
Thank you, Baby Brother.
Thank you, all of our Sheepdogs, past, present and future.
For your service and your sacrifice. For being who you are in a world that doesn’t always appreciate you. For letting me be who I am without fear of the Wolves.