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Bush to terror victims' kin: 'America grieves with you'

Bush talks to members of the military during a round of Christmas Eve phone calls from Camp David on Monday.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush expressed compassion for the victims of the September 11 terror attacks and gratitude to U.S. service members Tuesday in his Christmas radio address.

"This Christmas finds many facing hurt and loss, especially the families of terror victims and of our young men killed in battle," he said in the address, which was released at midnight. "America grieves with you, and we hope you'll especially find the comfort and hope of Christmas."

Bush said he and first lady Laura Bush "send our good wishes to all the families in America that have come together in celebration. We're especially grateful to all the men and women of our military, many of whom are today separated from their loved ones because they're serving our country."

Monday morning, Bush called nine members of the U.S. military serving overseas to thank them for their "great sacrifices" for the nation and to assure them all Americans were thinking of them during the holiday season.

The president phoned soldiers, sailors and airmen around the world. The White House said Bush spoke to service personnel stationed in Pakistan and the Arabian Sea as well as other locations.

"The president expressed his gratitude for their service to their country," said White House spokesman Jimmy Orr. "He passed along his best wishes. These Americans are making great sacrifices during the holiday season."

The calls were placed to one member of the service at a time. None of the calls was amplified for a larger audience. Recipients of the calls were selected by their respective branches of the military.

The president is spending the four-day weekend at Camp David with his parents. It marks the first time a father and son who were both elected president are spending Christmas together at the presidential retreat.

In addition to hosting former President George Herbert Walker Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, President Bush and first lady Laura were joined by their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara; the president's three brothers, Neil, Jeb and Marvin; and a sister, Dorothy, along with numerous nieces and nephews.

The families attended a Christmas Eve service at the Camp David chapel.

For dinner, the Bushes ate a Mexican feast that included tamales, home-made tortillas and chiles.

Earlier Monday, the president received his daily intelligence, military and FBI briefings and took a three-mile run on the Camp David compound.

No White House senior staffers were present; Bush gave many White House employees a full four-day Christmas weekend.

The Bushes are the second father-son presidential family in U.S. history. The other family, the Adamses, saw presidents elected in 1796 and 1824. The first Adams to win the presidency, John, was also the first occupant of the White House. Though he moved there in 1800, he did not live there throughout his term.

Camp David was first used as a presidential retreat by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At the time, the retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains was named "Shangri-La."


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