Obama honors U.S. service members in weekly address

As Washington settles into the Christmas season, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama asked all Americans to keep in mind the thousands of U.S. service members deployed overseas who will spending the holidays far from home.

Thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will be celebrating the holidays in the Unites States, after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama said in his weekly address.

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More than 32,000 U.S. troops have been pulled out of Afghanistan, with the remaining 68,000 preparing to withdraw from the country over the next year and a half. The last American combat units left Iraq last December.

However, there remain thousands on the battlefields in southwest Asia and elsewhere across the globe, Obama added.

"Let’s give thanks for our veterans . . . and let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear," the president said.

The first lady also called upon Americans to remember the families of those service men and women, who will also be spending another holiday season away from their loved ones.

"When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve right along with them," she said.

"Military spouses have been raising their families all alone during those long deployments," she added. "Our military families sacrifice so much on our behalf, and Barack and I believe that we should serve them as well as they serve this country."

Along with U.S. troops overseas, the president also acknowledged Americans' outpouring of help and support for those who have suffered through recent tragedies that have occurred stateside.

Victims of Hurricane Sandy, which savaged hundreds of cities and towns along the Eastern seaboard, as well as the families of the 27 people -- including 20 children -- killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday are still trying to rebuild after those devastating events, the president said.

"I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut," Obama said.

"That’s part of what makes us such a compassionate nation," he added.

During the address, Obama avoided discussing the ongoing stalemate between the White House and Congress over the rapidly approaching "fiscal cliff."

Late Thursday night, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could not secure enough GOP votes to pass his proposal to extend current tax rates on annual income up to $1 million.

Boehner's so-called "Plan B" solution was quickly pulled off the House floor after House GOP leaders found they could not secure the 218 votes for passage.

The defeat marked a frustrating end to intense, one-on-one negotiations between Obama and Boehner on how best to duck tax increases and $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts set to go into effect in January.