Not far from the shops and restaurants of Westwood Village is a veterans cemetery. So many people drive on the adjacent 405 Freeway and probably do not reflect that they pass near hallowed ground. I grew up across the street and I thought about these gravestones frequently. They represent great heroes who served our country.
I urge you to pass by the Malibu Pier this weekend and look out at the USS John Paul Jones. The ship was named in honor of Naval hero John Paul Jones, who said, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way” (the ship’s motto).
Those of who have traveled abroad, especially to countries where freedom is only a dream, gain special appreciation for our country and the values and principles we must cherish.
As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind! It is so easy to take our blessings for granted. Thank G-d, our recent military battles have been far from home. There are two notable exceptions in recent history. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. And then there was Sept. 11, 2001.
The men and woman of our Armed Forces serve us every day. But, for the most part, they seem out of sight. The closest some of us get to their mission is the television news. How soon we forget that these are real people who leave their loved ones at home. They have a profound sense of mission.
In a world in which so many seek our destruction, we must realize that the crew of the John Paul Jones is visiting Malibu, but the ship itself has served in dangerous situations on the front lines.
Today, my family and I had the honor to join the welcoming ceremony for the sailors. As I held my children’s hands, I though about how different it is for us, in America— the “land of the free?” When we see a military vessel, we feel honor and respect. This is not so in many countries around the globe, where the military is a force of oppression. Consider how in many authoritarian regimes, the military is used to keep people in line and suppress freedom.
The men and woman from the John Paul Jones will stroll around our city the next few days. Please, let’s make this a weekend for them to remember! Let us take time to show them our love and our gratitude for the daily sacrifice they make for us.
There is a Yiddish expression— the English equivalent is “Don’t be a stranger.” Make them feel like family. Don’t be shy. Say hello, and thank them for their service.