Bloomberg News

Obamas Attend Christmas Services With Marines on Hawaii

December 28, 2011

(Updates with details of visit to base from fourth paragraph.)

Dec. 25 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is combining church service with a Christmas Day visit to U.S. military members stationed in Hawaii.

Obama arrived at 11:08 a.m. local time at the Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, repeating a tradition he’s followed since 2008. With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, the president and his family attended services at the base chapel, while vacationing in nearby Kailua. The visit by Obama, who was born and raised in Honolulu, follows the Dec. 15 end to U.S. war in Iraq.

The president has visited troops on Christmas Day at the Kaneohe base the past three years. Yesterday, he made telephone calls to 10 service members, said Josh Earnest, deputy White House press secretary. The Obamas will have Christmas dinner at their vacation home.

Obama and his wife returned to the base shortly after 3:30 p.m. local time. Hundreds of service members and their families were gathered for a holiday meal at Anderson Hall.

The Obamas made the rounds, posing for photos, shaking hands, asking about their holidays and thanking troops for their service. The president made no formal remarks.

Entering the hall, he picked up a one-month-old infant, Adeline Whitney, and joked that the baby, who remained asleep, was “very excited to meet the president.”

Iraq War Over

The baby’s father, William Whitney, 25, a civilian who works in the chow hall, said in an interview that while he is glad to see the Iraq war over, he is also anxious for the war in Afghanistan to end. “I feed these guys -- it’s good to see a lot of their faces coming home,” he said.

Obama also stopped to talk to the Nastase family, including chatting about toys with Grace Nastase, 10, and her twin brother, Alex. Their father, Marine Corps Colonel Nathan Nastase, was home after four rotations in Iraq, his wife Susan said.

The president’s wife spoke by telephone yesterday with children and parents in connection with a program by NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said to track Santa’s location as he drops gifts around the world.

According to a transcript of remarks released by the White House, Michelle Obama told participants that while the White House has multiple fireplaces, she believes Santa usually descends into the Yellow Oval Room and “that’s where we put our Santa tree.”

Holiday Time

She also said she and her daughters asked Santa, the Tooth Fairy “and every fairy that they could think of” for President Obama to be with them in time for the holiday.

Obama, with the family dog, Bo, arrived in Honolulu on Dec. 23, days after his planned Dec. 17 departure from Washington. He postponed leaving until Congress reached an agreement to extend an expiring payroll tax cut for another two months while lawmakers negotiate a yearlong extension. Obama has said that the tax cut, worth about $1,000 per year or $40 per two-week pay period for a family earning $50,000 a year, would make a difference for working families.

The Obamas are staying at a rental home in Kailua, where they opened gifts today at 8 a.m. local time, ate breakfast and sang carols, according to a statement released by the White House.

They dined with friends and family on Dec. 23 at the Morimoto restaurant in Waikiki. Obama also played golf with friends and aides yesterday and had a family Christmas Eve dinner.

Top news stories: {TOP <GO>}

--Editors: Daniel Enoch, Mitch Martin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Honolulu at mtalev@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.


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