President Barack Obama lauded the "service and sacrifice" of U.S. troops and military families in a holiday radio and Internet address on Wednesday, and he highlighted the service men and women who have returned home over the past year.
"For many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they've been with their families on Christmas," Obama said.
"With the Iraq war over and the transition in Afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm's way than at any time in the last decade."
Obama used the Christmas Day broadcast as a chance to call Americans to service in their communities.
"For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us - to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper."
The President and first lady Michelle Obama recorded the greeting at the White House before departing on Friday for a two-week vacation in Hawaii.
Obama did not reveal the family's plans for the holiday but said watching basketball and eating Christmas cookies might be part of the celebration.