Updated: Wed, 26 Dec 2012 03:20:04 GMT | By NBC's Ali Weinberg

President Obama greets Marines in Hawaii on Christmas



President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet military personnel and their families as they walk into Anderson Hall base chow hall at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay, Dec 25.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet military personnel and their families as they walk into Anderson Hall base chow hall at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay, Dec 25.

KANEHOE, HAWAII – President Obama spent part of his last full day in Hawaii participating in an annual tradition for his wife Michelle and him: greeting Marines at the base near his vacation home here.

The president will return to Washington D.C. early Thursday morning, the White House announced, as the Senate returns to session to work on a way forward on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.

But his attention was far from tax hikes and spending cuts as he and the first lady slipped around a corner of the Anderson mess hall at Marine Corps Base Hawaii to greet military families as they ate an early Christmas dinner.

In short remarks, Obama, dressed casually in a blue button-down shirt and khakis, thanked the service members and their families – mostly Marines, but some Army and Navy as well - for enduring the challenges of military life.

“Not only do those in uniform make sacrifices but I think everybody understands the sacrifices that families make each and every day as well,” he said.

The president also noted that the country is “still in a wartime footing,” even as the troop drawdown in Afghanistan, slated to conclude in 2014, continues.

“Some of you may have loved ones who are deployed there; some of you may be about to be deployed there,” he said. “So we want you to know that it’s not easy. But what we also want you to know is that you have the entire country aligned with you.”

After his remarks, the president and first lady disappeared behind the mess hall walls, where they posed for pictures with troops. 

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