Via Video Teleconference

Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort

Palm Beach, Florida

8:59 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I just wanted to wish everybody a very, very Merry Christmas. We say, “Christmas” again very proudly. Very, very merry Christmas. We’re going to have a great year. It’s going to be an incredible year.

I’m thrilled to bring season’s greetings on behalf of the First Lady and our entire family, and most importantly, on behalf of the American people. Today and everyday we’re incredibly thankful for you and for your families. Your families have been tremendous. Always underappreciated, the military families — the greatest people on Earth.

We have five deployed units joining us today, one from each branch of our armed forces.

I want to welcome Colonel Chuck Lombardo and all of the soldiers of Iron Brigade. Deployed in Kuwait to support the Operation Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve, the Iron Brigade is currently serving as an active partner in the Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Jordanian armies, and doing an incredible job. You also provide force protection and security cooperation in Syria and in Iraq. It is a vital mission, and we want to thank you very much. Great job.

Colonel Chris Gideons and the Special Purpose Marine Air Force and Air-Ground Task Force joins us from Kuwait as well. The Task Force is Central Command’s crisis response force, and a powerful force it is. Colonel, I understand that among your many other missions, the Task Force has provided more than 4,000 flight hours of close-air support to the campaign against ISIS. Everybody’s talking about it. You’ve done an incredible job. So, Colonel Gideons, we want to thank you very much. Where’s the Colonel out here? Where is he?

COLONEL GIDEONS: Right here, sir, and we’re happy to.

THE PRESIDENT: Great job. Thank you very much.

Merry Christmas to all of the sailors aboard the USS Sampson. Commander Tim LaBenz, I want to thank you and the entire crew for your outstanding work in defending high-value assets in the Straits of Hormuz. You also provide air defense coverage in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. I know the USS Sampson recently set a new standard in readiness. And it really has always been ready, but we’re all ready. And that is a tremendous credit to all of those aboard. So congratulations on the new standard. We’re all talking about it. It’s a high standard you’ve set. Thank you very much.

The 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron joins us from Qatar. Colonel Goossen, welcome to you, again, and all of the Knighthawks. The 69th has engaged more than 700 ISIS and Taliban targets in five separate countries, and was recently awarded both the Linebacker and LeMay trophies — an amazing achievement and a very unusual one to get both. Thank you very much.

From the United States Coast Guard, who have done such an incredible job in Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico — they’ve had plenty of work right here — we want to welcome Captain Matthew Wadleigh and Port Security Unit 309 stationed down in Guantanamo Bay. This unit does outstanding work in providing expeditionary anti-terrorism and force protection around the globe.

In fact, we saw your tireless efforts in action at the 200 — as you know, at our great Republican National Convention. And many Republicans are very happy, but I have to tell you, the people of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and lots of other states are even more happy. What a job you’ve done. The Coast Guard saved thousands and thousands of lives. Almost — it’s unbelievable when I looked at the charts and I saw the number of lives you’ve saved. So I want to congratulate the Coast Guard for having done an incredible job.

As we celebrate this most precious holiday, we’re grateful for each of you who spend this Christmas away from your families and defend all of our families, our freedoms, and our flag. Every American heart is thankful to you, and we’re asking God to watch over you and to watch over your families.

As we open up the discussion, I know that some of the men and women under your command are able to join us and, perhaps, ask some of the questions.

So we’re going to be speaking with these wonderful people of the media and asking them to leave. Enjoy yourselves, folks. We appreciate it. Have a great Christmas. And we’re going to do some very personal questions between these great people and myself. And we want to thank you very much for being here. And if I don’t see you during the day, have a great holiday and a great Christmas. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you

END

9:05 A.M. EST

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