Not Sheep, Not Wolves, but Sheep Dogs

There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.” ~ American Sniper, the movie

Honor Memorial Day

write novels - Melanie Saxton

                Honor Memorial Day

Our nation is indebted to our military personnel—the incredible men and women who step up, enlist, and deploy. If you have military members on your family tree as I do, then this Memorial Day weekend has special significance.

I lived on base as a young child, and my loved ones either currently serve or formerly served in the United States Air Force. One uncle was as a proud Marine who survived Vietnam, but lost a battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Thanks to, 17 patriot grandfathers from the 1700s now appear on my family tree. They either served in the War of Independence after immigrating from Europe, or were the first generation born on what would soon become American soil.

Many of my friends have military parents, siblings, spouses and children. In fact, one has a daughter overseas. Another has a son who just enlisted. Their bravery inspires authors to write novels that celebrate the return home. Others write posthumous tributes. And then some—a special few—write something as monumental as Chris Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper.

Chris Kyle and American Sniper

I grew up watching war movies, absorbing the scorching narratives and wondering how people summoned the courage to put their lives on the line. The Bridge on the River Kwai, The sands of Iwo Jima, Patton, The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now were among the most riveting. And along came the American Sniper movie, which has a scene explaining the notion of selflessness in profoundly simple terms.

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American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Chris Kyle’s book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History was the inspiration for the movie. He earned a place in U.S. military history as the nation’s most accurate and prolific marksman. This so impressed Clint Eastwood that he directed a film by the same name starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle. In the movie, Chris Kyle’s father says (emphasis mine):

There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

There it is. There’s my answer. This is why some are willing to sacrifice it all—their calling is to confront the wolf. They are the sheep dogs.

Write Novels or Write Screenplays—There’s a Difference

After reading Chris Kyle’s autobiography and watching the movie, I noticed that those famous “sheep dog” lines did not appear in the book at all. Writer Jason Hill included them in the movie, but they originated in a speech by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman. He coined the “sheep dog” analogy and has an Amazon page filled with his own books…which takes me back to the topic at hand: Memorial Day.

Memorial Day Fast Facts

Our special and sacred American holiday is observed every year on the last Monday of May and honors all the U.S. military men and women we have lost. Known as Decoration Day after the Civil War, it was recognized by Congress as an official federal holiday in 1971.

Memorial Day is not a day of celebration. It is a holiday of remembrance—painful remembrance. That’s why saying “Happy Memorial Day” is not appropriate. So what do we say instead? According to Lieutenant Colonel Allen B. West, we should say, “Honor Memorial Day.” This is a respectful way to remember the fallen.

RIP to our loved ones who are no longer with us and may we never forget their selfless sacrifice.

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