President Barack Obama continued his Christmas Day tradition of visiting and greeting troops at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and offered thanks to military personnel and their families for their “incredible sacrifices” to their country, before spending the evening at his holiday home with friends and family.
The president, along with first lady Michelle Obama, greeted more than 500 service members and their families at the base in Oahu and said that he had called 10 service members based in remote locations such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, on Christmas Eve. Visiting the camp base at Kaneohe Bay and spending time here has become an annual ritual for the president, who normally spends most of his Christmas holiday vacations away from public settings at his secluded home, which is a short drive away from the base.
“It was just a sampling of the incredible sacrifices that all of you and your families make every single day,” Obama said. ‘‘Michelle and I know that we would not enjoy the freedoms we do if it weren’t for the incredible dedication and professionalism and work that you do,’’ he said, adding that ‘‘the least we can do is just let you all know we’re grateful to you,’’ Boston Herald reported.
The troops, whom the President greeted on Christmas Eve, included personnel who were injured in South Sudan.
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Obama, a native of Hawaii, wished the troops and families, ‘‘mele kalikimaka’’ -- the Hawaiian phrase for 'Merry Christmas,' amid loud cheers, before stepping off the stage to meet and pose for photographs with troops and their families, according to a Washington Post report.
The first lady did not speak at the public function at the military base but, in a separate statement released from the White House, said that the nation should find new ways to give back to its soldiers.
‘‘And with more and more of our troops back here at home, now it’s our turn to serve--It’s our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much,’’ she said. The White House also released an audio and video message from the president and the first lady, in which they wished everyone “a happy holiday season.”
In the video message, the president said: “For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.”
Earlier, Obama started the day by opening presents and singing carols with his two daughters in their rented holiday home, the Washington Post reported, citing a White House aide. The Obamas have kept their holiday a low-key affair, and rarely step out except for golfing with friends and spending time with his family at the beach.
The Obamas are expected to remain in Hawaii until Jan. 5.