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Obama spends Christmas with family and military

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:49 p.m. HST, Dec 25, 2011


President Barack Obama blended his roles as a father and commander-in-chief this Christmas, exchanging presents and singing carols with his family, then greeting U.S. service members stationed at a Marine base in Hawaii.

The president and his family woke up early Sunday to open gifts, the White House said, then had breakfast and sang Christmas carols at the multimillion-dollar house they rent in Kailua Beach, near Honolulu.

Obama made two trips on Christmas to nearby Marine Corps Base Hawaii, first to attend church services at the base chapel. The president dressed casually in dark khaki pants and a short-sleeve blue shirt, and his wife and daughters donned sundresses for Christmas services on a bright, breezy day on the island of Oahu.

After spending a few hours at their rental home, the president and Michelle Obama returned to the base to visit with several hundred service members and their families, as they have done in past years. The president and his family also went to church on base on Christmas during his vacation last year

The Obamas posed for photos, signed autographs and stopped to chat with the military families gathered in the dining hall, where roast beef, salad and apple pie were on the Christmas Day menu.

Eight-month-old Cooper Wall Wagner, son of Capt. Greg Wagner, got up close and personal with the president, grabbing his face, then sticking his fingers in Obama's mouth.

An amused Obama said he thought the baby just liked his "big nose" — a comment that drew laughter from several of the Marines.

Many of the service members stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii have deployed to Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, where the last American troops were withdrawn earlier this month.

The president and Michelle Obama returned to the base at 3:36 p.m. to visit with service members and their families, as they have done in past years, at the Anderson Hall dining facility. Many of the Marines stationed at the base have deployed to Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, where the last American troops were withdrawn earlier this month.

The president also called 10 service members stationed around the world — two from each branch of the military — on Christmas Eve. The White House said he thanked them for their service and the sacrifice of being away from their families at the holidays.

The White House said the president was also monitoring developments in Nigeria and the administration offered its condolences to the Nigerian people, especially the families of the at least 39 people killed Sunday.

The majority died on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Mass, part of an apparently coordinated assault by a radical Muslim sect.

The White House says U.S. officials have been in contact with their counterparts in Nigeria and pledged to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice.

The Obamas planned to wrap up their Christmas festivities with dinner at the rental home with friends and family. Among those joining the first family in Hawaii are the president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who lives on Oahu, and several friends Obama has known since high school.

The president has kept a low profile since arriving in Hawaii on Friday evening to start a vacation delayed by the stalemate in Washington over extending payroll tax cuts. He has no public events planned, and his only outings are expected to be to the golf course or to take his daughters for shave ice, a Hawaiian snow cone.

The Obamas are expected to return to Washington shortly after New Year's Day.

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