President Joe Biden has marked his first Christmas Day in office by making calls to US troops stationed around the world, offering them holiday wishes and gratitude for their service to the nation.
Joined by his wife, Jill, and their new puppy, Commander, the president spoke via video link to service members representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and Coast Guard, stationed at bases in Qatar, Romania, Bahrain and the US.
“As your commander in chief, I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you, thank you, thank you,” he told the service members. “We’re grateful for your courage, your sacrifice, not only your sacrifice but your family’s sacrifice.”
Speaking from a studio set up at the White House, Mr Biden told them they are “the solid steel spine of the nation” and emphasised the “truly sacred obligation” the nation has to care for soldiers and their families.
Mrs Biden expressed empathy for the difficulties their families experience spending the holidays away from their loved ones, noting that the Bidens experienced the same when their son Beau, who served as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, was deployed to Iraq.
The Bidens planned a relatively quiet Christmas at the White House with family.
As the coronavirus pandemic surges again, driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant, the Bidens sought with their public appearances and statements to offer a sense of unity and normality in an otherwise challenging season for many.
In a Christmas statement, the Bidens praised the “enormous courage, character, resilience, and resolve” of the American people in the face of the pandemic, and offered prayers that the nation would find “light in the darkness” during a difficult season.
“During this season of joy, we are inspired by the countless Americans who are a reminder that the things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic,” the Bidens said in their statement.