November brings the confluence of three anniversaries – the birthday of the United States Marine Corps on November 10, Veteran’s Day on November 11, and of course, Thanksgiving. There was a passenger onboard the Mayflower who could be honored upon all three. He was a soldier of fortune who, in between wars, took pity upon these hapless farmers and artisans we call Pilgrims – who were armed with faith but little else – and agreed to accompany them to the new world as military advisor. He was the only one who did not get sick that first brutal winter (half of them died, including his wife, Rose) and so he tended to all the others, especially William Bradford, who would soon serve as governor for most of the remainder of his life and become his life-long friend. The calm, thoughtful Bradford and this fiery-tempered soldier formed a partnership that not only allowed New Plymouth to survive, but eventually thrive. That soldier’s name was Myles Standish.

“What has he to do with the , which would not be formed till over a century later?” You might ask. An attitude and outlook that would become uniquely American is the answer. Standish much preferred the use of “a few good men” rather than overwhelming hordes in his military operations, much like Gideon of old. He would strike those who threatened the colony, or their Pokanoket allies (the native tribe with whom the autumn feast of 1621 was shared) by land, or by sea through the use of a shallop. Sound familiar? He favored preemption. Take out the problem long before it gets out of hand. The friendliness with the Indians that we so often associate with the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving was in no small part due to the great Sachem of the Wampanoag Nation, Massasoit, having complete faith in Myles Standish to be counted upon if the hostile Narragansett or Massachusett were to attack his people. (“No better friend, no worse enemy” was coined by the commander of the 1stMarine Division in Iraq. That commander, Marine Gen. James Mattis, is currently serving as Secretary of Defense. He is also famous for lately saying that nothing keeps him awake at night – he keeps “other people awake at night.” Myles Standish would, no doubt, heartily approve.)

At one point, the Narragansett sent a bundle of arrows wrapped in snakeskin to New Plymouth. This was meant to intimidate, much like Luca Brasi’s bulletproof vest sent to Sonny Corleone filled with fish in The Godfather. Standish advised Bradford to send the snake skin back – wrapped around powder and shot. The Narragansett got the message…

It is said that there are three kinds of people – most are “sheep,” and some are “wolves” who prey upon the “sheep,” and then there is the third kind – the “shepherd dog.” He has many of the qualities of the wolf, but he serves and protects the weak instead of exploiting them. Myles Standish was the “shepherd dog” (and at times it must be said, “Devil Dog”) who kept watch over this pitiful little band seeking the freedom to pursue their religious faith in what would become the United States. He literally built walls around them, stood watch over them, and trained them to defend themselves.

So enjoy Thanksgiving, but in your thankfulness please remember our armed forces, our law enforcement, and our first responders who serve every day, and are the “shepherd dogs” who watch over us as we share this time with our friends and family. They are a rather special “breed.”