President Obama thanks troops for their service

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President Barack Obama makes phone calls from the Oval Office to members of the U.S. military on Thanksgiving Day. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama makes phone calls from the Oval Office to members of the U.S. military on Thanksgiving Day. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In what has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition over the past decade, President Obama called 10 members of the armed forces serving in the Middle East to thank them for their service to our nation.

Chief Boatswain’s Mate Andrew Otero and Food Service Specialist 2nd Class John Backman both received calls from the president during some much deserved time ashore.

Chief Boatswain's Mate Andrew Otero receives a call from President Obama on Thanksgiving Day. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Chief Boatswain's Mate Andrew Otero receives a call from President Obama on Thanksgiving Day. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

For Otero, who was recently promoted to the rank of chief after 19 years of service, this Thanksgiving is particularly poignant as he will be headed home to his wife and three children next month after his deployment as First Lieutenant aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Baranof.

“It was an honor being selected from the many well deserving Coasties serving here in the Middle East,” Otero tells the Compass. “The fact that the President would take the time to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to myself, and my family is beyond imaginable. This is one of the very special moments I will take with me and be able to share about this deployment.”

Food Service Specialist 2nd Class John Backman receives a call from President Obama in the radio room of the CGC Maui on Thanksgiving Day. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Food Service Specialist 2nd Class John Backman receives a call from President Obama in the radio room of the CGC Maui on Thanksgiving Day. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Backman is no stranger to a Thanksgiving spent in the kitchen. As the cook aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Maui he makes sure his 22 shipmates get three square meals a day to maintain mission readiness. And, while he wasn’t home to carve the turkey with his wife and daughter, a call from the President will be quite the Thanksgiving story to share around the table next year.

“To have the opportunity to speak with the President of the United States was an honor,” Backman tells us. “This will definitely be one of the most humbling and memorable Thanksgivings of my life.”

Thank you President Obama for making this Thanksgiving a special one for members of our service away from their families and for sharing the thanks of a grateful nation with these two deserving Coast Guardsmen. We also want to thanks Lieutenant Commander Ben Berg, the deputy commander of Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia for helping us share our shipmates’ stories with our readers.

And, a special thank you to all of the men and women in uniform serving overseas this holiday season. Your sacrifice in defense of our freedoms is a debt we will never be able to repay.

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