US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama offered Christmas wishes to US citizens on Thursday, including a special thanks to the military. They urged Americans to help support military families this holiday season.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said serving as commander in chief has been his greatest honour as president. He saluted the "selfless spirit" of those who serve and said he has been "humbled, profoundly" by those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"So to all our men and women in uniform spending the holidays far from home - whether it's at a base here in the states, a mess hall in Iraq or a remote outpost in Afghanistan - know that you are in our thoughts and our prayers," the president said in a message released two days early because of Christmas.
"And this holiday season - and every holiday season - know that we are doing everything in our power to make sure you can succeed in your missions and come home safe to your families."
Mrs. Obama recalled her visits with "military spouses doing the parenting of two" to keep their households together.
"But even these strong military families can use a hand, especially during the holidays," she said, her first time sharing the president's weekly address.
"If you live near a military base, you can reach out through your workplaces, your schools, your churches. There are so many ways to help - with child care, with errands, or by just bringing over a home-cooked meal," Mrs. Obama said.
For service members serving around the world, the president added that kids can send greeting cards and adults can send "care" packages or prepaid phone cards. He directed listeners to the White House Web site "for more ways to let our troops know you care."
Even in these tough economic times, Obama said, there's still much to celebrate this Christmas, including the birth of Jesus.
"The love of family and friends. The bonds of community and country. And the character and courage of our men and women in uniform who are far from home for the holidays, away from their families, risking their lives to protect ours," he added.
Obama left the White House Thursday morning, along with his wife and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, for the family's traditional Christmas vacation in Hawaii, where he was born.