WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2010 — President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today to thank U.S. servicemembers for their service and sacrifice, and to personally pass on his holiday greetings.
I wanted to share some excerpts of his speech to more than 3,500 servicemembers in a hangar at Bagram Air Base, in which he not only thanked troops for their “selfless service,” but also acknowledged the sacrifices made by their families, particularly with the holidays at hand.
“I know it’s not easy for all of you to be away from home, especially during the holidays,” Obama said. “And I know it’s hard on your families. They’ve got an empty seat at the dinner table. Sometimes during the holiday season that’s when you feel the absence of somebody you love most acutely. ”
The president thanked the troops on behalf of himself, his family and “more than 300 million Americans. “I also want to say thank you to your families back home so that when you talk to them you know that they know,” he said. “They’re serving here with you — in mind and spirit, if not in body.”
Americans are united, and unfailing, in their support of military members and their families.
“Everybody back home is behind you,” he said. “Everybody — from north to south to east to west, from sea to shining sea — the American people are united in support of you and your families.”
Obama said he will spare no effort to ensure servicemembers’ families have the support they need.
“That doesn’t just matter to me,” he said. “It’s also a top priority for [First Lady] Michelle [Obama] — to make sure that Americans understand the sacrifices that your families are making.
“As she likes to say, 100 percent of Americans need to be right — they are supporting you and your families — 100 percent,” he said. “Only 1 percent are fighting these wars, but 100 percent of us have to be behind you and your families.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)