President Obama on Sunday said he was addressing U.S. troops directly for the last time while president, according to reports out of Hawaii, where he and first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaWe must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary MORE greeted several hundred service members and their families celebrating Christmas Day.
“I just want all of you to know that it has been the privilege of my life to serve as your commander in chief,” Obama said at Kaneohe Bay. “I know Michelle feels the same way when it comes to being able to stand alongside our military families and our veterans.”
The only U.S. president to serve two full terms with the nation at war pointed out that thousands of American troops were marking the holiday in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that missions against enemies, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, don’t stop for Christmas.
"As tough as it is to be deployed, the people here in America, back home, understand that every single day you serve, you're fighting for our freedom,” he said.
Obama, a Honolulu native, has reportedly visited the Marine Corps Base Hawaii mess hall every Dec. 25 since he was president-elect in 2008. He said “that as a citizen,” his gratitude and commitment to the military will remain “every step of the way.”
The president jokingly warned that troops definitely had not seen the last of him.
“We look forward to seeing you for many years to come because I understand that I still have a little bit of rank as ex-president,” Obama said. “So I still get to use the gym on base and, of course, the golf course.”