December 25, 2008 in Nation/World

Obama pays tribute to troops

Radio address notes pain of absence during holidays
By John McCormick Chicago Tribune
Associated Press photo

President-elect Barack Obama greets well-wishers after his workout at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base in Kailua, Hawaii, on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

HONOLULU – President-elect Barack Obama used a holiday radio address released Wednesday to remember the nation’s troops serving overseas and average citizens at home who are struggling amid a troubled economy.

“Many troops are serving their second, third, or even fourth tour of duty,” Obama said in a recording scheduled for broadcast Saturday. “This holiday season, their families celebrate with a joy that is muted knowing that a loved one is absent and sometimes in danger.”

Obama, who is vacationing on his native island of Oahu, also talks about the missed memories of those away from home.

“In towns and cities across America, there is an empty seat at the dinner table,” he said. “In distant bases and on ships at sea, our servicemen and women can only wonder at the look on their child’s face as they open a gift back home.”

The president-elect has been getting daily face time with troops stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where he has gone every morning of his vacation so far for a workout inside a fitness center on the base.

He spent about three minutes shaking hands and greeting about 60 people gathered in a parking lot outside the fitness center on Wednesday, Christmas Eve.

“Hey, man, how’s it going?” he asked one person, before wishing everyone, “Mele Kalikimaka,” which is the Hawaiian translation for Merry Christmas.

Then, according to a media pool report of the exchange, Obama turned to some children and asked, “You guys got your Christmas lists all together?”

In the radio address, Obama said there is a need for collective sacrifice during this time of economic duress.

“That is why this season of giving should also be a time to renew a sense of common purpose and shared citizenship,” he said. “Now, more than ever, we must rededicate ourselves to the notion that we share a common destiny as Americans.”

Obama said that is the spirit that will guide his administration.

“If the American people come together and put their shoulder to the wheel of history, then I know that we can put our people back to work and point our country in a new direction,” he said. “That is how we will see ourselves through this time of crisis, and reach the promise of a brighter day.”

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