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In Christmas tradition, Obama thanks U.S. troops

By Josh Lederman

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:50 p.m. HST, Dec 25, 2013

President Barack Obama stepped away from the seclusion of his quiet Hawaii vacation for what's become a Christmas tradition: paying tribute to U.S. troops and the sacrifices their families make during the holidays and throughout the year.

After a morning of presents and carols with their two daughters, the president and first lady Michelle Obama took a short drive to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where nearly 600 troops and their families gathered in a mess hall, half-eaten pieces of cake still on the table from Christmas dinner.

"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," Obama said. "The least we can do is just let you all know we're grateful to you."

Obama, dressed informally in dark pants and a blue shirt, called out the names of some of the military units stationed here, prompting loud whoops from the troops. He recalled speaking by phone on Christmas Eve with 10 service members stationed in places like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

"It was just a sampling of the incredible sacrifice that you and your families make every single day," Obama said as he and the first lady prepared to pose for photos. Obama wished the troops a "mele kalikimaka" before he and Mrs. Obama spent about two hours posing for photos.

Members of the Marine Corps said meeting the Obamas and taking a photograph with them was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"The experience was amazing," said Staff Sgt. Tyrone Butler. "My wife (Laureel) was awe-struck. She said the first lady gives the best hugs ... It was a dream come true not only for her but for the whole family."

Capt. Adam Brown said a lot of Marines and their families appreciated the president taking Christmas Day to express his gratitude.

"It was a great honor," Brown said. "It was really cool."

Sgt. Salvador Torres said Obama shook his hand and said, "Thank you," and was flexible enough to allow his 4-year-old son to hold his robot toy while taking the family photograph. 

The visit to this wind-swept base on a peninsula on Oahu has become almost a ritual for Obama, who seeks refuge from the stresses of Washington during his annual vacation in Hawaii. He frequently visits the base's golf course and gym.

It's also one of the few moments when Obama appears in a public setting during his trip. Aside from a basketball game and dinner at a Honolulu restaurant, the Obamas have remained largely out of sight since arriving here over the weekend. Obama has played a round of golf nearly every day and the first family has spent much of the time at a vacation rental in an upscale neighborhood in Oahu.

This year's vacation comes at the end of a particularly vexing year in which a gun control push failed, an immigration overhaul stalled and the rollout of Obama's signature health care law crashed and burned. Reflecting on the year as he prepared to depart for Honolulu, Obama said he'd have better ideas for approaching next year "after a couple days of sleep and sun."

Among the troops Obama called Tuesday were those wounded over the weekend during a mission to evacuate Americans from South Sudan. Four troops were injured in that effort, but the White House has said they are in stable condition.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also offered his holiday wishes to troops by phone, calling military members stationed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Pentagon said. And Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, paid a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where they visited patients and families. The hospital treats many military members wounded in war.

Mrs. Obama did not speak publicly during the stop at the Marine base, but in a Christmas video message released Wednesday, she said now that more troops are home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation must find new ways to give back.

"It's our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much," she said.

In their Christmas message, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama reflected on the lessons they said their family draws from the birth and life of Jesus. The president urged Americans to carry forward those lessons by volunteering at a soup kitchen, buying gifts for kids in need, or organizing food and clothing drives.

"For all of us as Americans, regardless of our faith, those are values that can drive us to be better parents and friends, better neighbors and better citizens," he said.

In the Republican address, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho said America's most prized gifts include freedom and worship. He thanked the military for defending U.S. freedoms.


White House address: http://www.whitehouse.gov

GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/gopweeklyaddress

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HLOEWEN wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 25,2013 | 06:12AM
eoe wrote:
Sock puppet.
on December 25,2013 | 08:56AM
meat wrote:
Yeah, help those that BOBO SCREWED over. Thats what he's saying. He put more in need since becoming King.
on December 25,2013 | 12:43PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Hloewen has been under Obamacare for six months? Your wife should stop working for Scrooge.
on December 25,2013 | 06:28PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Opposite of Robin Hood: taking from the poor and giving to the rich, which happened during WWII and the lessons learned from it, including Hitler's suîcide, needs to be remembered, so that we don't repeat the same mistake. History has a tendency of repeating itself, including Gengis Kahn, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and god hope not Obama.
on December 25,2013 | 06:03PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Merry Christmas President Obama and First Family. Thank You for serving all Americans. Have a great holiday here at home in the islands.
on December 25,2013 | 06:26PM
paradisetax wrote:
"If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Period!"
on December 25,2013 | 06:24AM
kailua000 wrote:
Yes, honor those in need. Pay twice your insurance premium and 10x your deductible to help those who cannot afford insurance, who have yet to even sign up on the Healthcare.gov, while putting your family in financial difficulties. You have worked hard, so give it all away to those who dont. ...dont get me wrong, our health care needs restructuring, but people with no health care can go get it for free right now and IF I chose to register for the new health care,my premium doubles and my deductible is $5500. So no, under Obama's Honor Those In Need...Ill donate to the Wounded Warriors, Ill donate clothing to a mission or homeless shelter, Im not giving most of my paycheck away to help pay for someone else - who by the way gets it for about $4.00 a month, exactly what I would pay $500 a month.
on December 25,2013 | 06:49AM
eoe wrote:
Yes wounded warrior, what a cause. Delivers a whopping 58 cents on the dollar to veteran's programs. Consistently low ranking charity.
on December 25,2013 | 09:04AM
Pacej001 wrote:
You get credit for considering our wounded military and you're correct on the WWP's high program administration costs. Fisher House, the Semper Fi Fund look very good. There are others. No better day than today to give. Merry Christmas, all.
on December 25,2013 | 10:14AM
primowarrior wrote:
Merry Christmas to all. Hopefully, everyone is spending the day with friends and loved ones, and perhaps keeping those who are less fortunate in mind. I think we're a better nation when Americans help each other out, and that will be my New Year's resolution, to help in any way, however small, that I can.
on December 25,2013 | 08:05AM
false wrote:
democrats always talk about charity. problem is, it's always with other people's money.
on December 25,2013 | 09:31AM
anakemo wrote:
on December 26,2013 | 06:42AM
false wrote:
Public record. Look at joe biden, obama and nancy pelosi. Some people (dems) talk about charity, the rest (repub/indep) do charity.
on December 25,2013 | 09:37AM
frontman wrote:
Obama phones, 59% of America on food stamps, 63% of ALL jobs are federal or state jobs, no better way to buy your voting base....................give them freebeeies.
on December 25,2013 | 09:41AM
retire wrote:
Perhaps forgoing the annual Hawaii vacation and donating that money to charity would be a good start.
on December 25,2013 | 11:32AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Wait! The money used to fund his Hawaii vacations is not his to donate. It is ours, the taxpayers.
on December 25,2013 | 01:05PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Ronin can go collect his 2 cents,lol.
on December 25,2013 | 06:31PM
anakemo wrote:
on December 26,2013 | 06:44AM
Venus1 wrote:
Thank you Obamas for your uplifting words and for who you are all year! So proud of each of you !! Merry Chstmas!
on December 25,2013 | 12:16PM
fshnpoi wrote:
sure barry..charity begins on the golf course. enjoy your families vacation while you still have troops in harms way!
on December 25,2013 | 01:51PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Bush took more vacations, while troops were getting killed by the hundreds.
on December 25,2013 | 06:31PM
anakemo wrote:
on December 26,2013 | 06:49AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Hawaii 79, Oregon State 73. Where were u Barry? Craig needed ur inspiration!
on December 25,2013 | 05:57PM
Eradication wrote:
it is sad that a story that shows the President personally thanking our service members and their families for their sacrifices they make each and every day turns into a platform for you selfish people to take that as an opportunity to rant, name calling, and totally disrespecting the Office of the President of the United States. This country isn't going down the drain because of the politicians. It's going down the tube because of people like the ones who post hateful, disrespectful comments like the ones posted here. We have lost our civility.....completely. Happy Holidays everyone?#@
on December 25,2013 | 06:29PM
HOSSANA wrote:
Awww! Shaddup!!
on December 25,2013 | 08:24PM
2NDC wrote:
He would gain a lot more respect from me if he would surprise the troops and fly into theater and have Christmas dinner with the brave men and women who provide the freedom that he enjoys. Unfortunately I don't think bruddah has the rocks to do that.
on December 25,2013 | 06:46PM
kawika49 wrote:
As a Vietnam Vet: I resent your remarks. He has been to Iraq and Afghanistan, more than Johnson, Nixon, Bush1 and Bush 2; have during their terms. I have received, better service from the Veterans Administration than, previous administrations. Even Clinton, did squat to make it better for us. So, have a merry Christmas, and get over yourself.
on December 25,2013 | 08:37PM
2NDC wrote:
Get over yourself. I have the same right to express myself as you do. Vietnam Vet. Uh huh.
on December 25,2013 | 10:08PM
HOSSANA wrote:
I swear his wife looks like a monkey!! I know its a crude and crass comment but look at her .....geezus, and you have to wonder that maybe they did descend from the descendants of the monkeys thousand of years ago.....
on December 25,2013 | 08:27PM
eoe wrote:
on December 25,2013 | 09:43PM
HOSSANA wrote:
Like the old saying goes, " TRUTH ALWAYS HURTS." so i'm a racist for speaking the truth in my observation of the physical profile of one michelle obammy!!!
on December 25,2013 | 11:00PM
2NDC wrote:
They look like a pair of "Muppets".
on December 25,2013 | 10:09PM
krusha wrote:
I bet people would say the same thing about you if they saw your face in person.
on December 25,2013 | 11:51PM
anakemo wrote:
I agree. I feel sorry for their parents who raised them with such a resentful attitude both 2NDC and HOSSANA.
on December 26,2013 | 09:35AM
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