Bush opts for Christmas phone calls to Iraq soldiers | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bush opts for Christmas phone calls to Iraq soldiers

Marko Drobnjakovic/Associated PressA U.S. army soldier from Blackfoot Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, watches a movie at K-wal combat outpost in the village of Shakarat, north of Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday night.

WASHINGTON ” President Bush spoke by telephone today to 10 U.S. servicemen and women stationed in Iraq and elsewhere around the world to thank them for serving their country and spending the holiday season away from their families.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president told them their country is proud of them.

“He said he couldn’t thank them enough for their contribution to their country, hopes they are in high spirits, and that they are serving a cause that is very noble,” Perino said. “He said, ‘I know that you miss your family.’ “

The service members included three soldiers, two Marines, two sailors, two members of the Air Force and one Coast Guard petty officer. Seven of them were serving in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and two on the high seas — one in the Persian Gulf and one in the Bering Sea.

The president “asked them to pass on to their colleagues his appreciation and his wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” Perino said.

One of them was Cpl. Orlando Anaya, a Marine from Roswell, N.M., stationed at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq. His father, Ray Anaya, said the phone call was an honor for his son and for the family.

“I wasn’t too surprised because I know he deserves it — everyone over there deserves it. But I was honored,” the father said from his home in Roswell.

Bush also exchanged holiday greetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about recent Turkish attacks on Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq. U.S. officials have acknowledged providing intelligence to Turkey to assist the operations.

“The president and the prime minister … discussed their common efforts to fight terrorism, and the importance of the United States, Turkey and Iraq working together to confront the [separatists],” said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Bush is spending the Christmas holiday at his Camp David presidential retreat. In addition to his wife, Laura, he is joined by his daughters, Jenna and Barbara, his mother-in-law Jenna Welch, his sister Doro Bush Koch, his brother Marvin, and their families.

The family plans a Christmas Day meal of roast turkey, corn bread stuffing and sweet potato pie. Dessert was to include pecan pie, pumpkin pie and red velvet cake.

On Wednesday, the president will travel to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he will spend the rest of the holiday break and ring in the new year before returning to Washington on Jan. 1.

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