President Obama spent Christmas afternoon speaking to more than 500 servicemen and their families gathered in a dining facility at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, a quick drive from the Obama's vacation home in Kailua.

Obama, with first lady Michelle, at his side, thanked the military families for the sacrifices they have made to keep the nation secure. The audience assembled in the dining hall was made up mainly of Marines but the event also was open to Army, Navy and Air Force families.

The president said he knows “a lot of our friends and comrades” are raising their families here while others are serving in Afghanistan and other far-flung places.

He said over the last two days he had called 10 service members who were in Afghanistan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“It was just a sampling of the incredible sacrifice that all of you and your families make every single day,” he said. “Michelle and I know that we would not enjoy the freedoms we do if it weren't for the incredible dedication and professionalism and work that you do.”

“The least we can do is just let you all know we're grateful to you,” he added.

When the president singled out several regiments, battalions and patrol units by name, the service members hooted and cheered in response.

“Thank you so much for your great work,” Obama said. “We hope all of you have a Mele Kalikimaka and we hope you guys have a great new year as well.”

Before enjoying Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends Tuesday night, Obama phoned service members from each branch of the military stationed around the globe, including personnel who were wounded in the operation in South Sudan last weekend, the White House said Wednesday.

On Christmas morning, the first family gathered together to open gifts and sing carols.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill spent Christmas afternoon visiting patients and their families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

This story was first published on Dec. 25 at 10:26 p.m.