In a Christmas Eve message, President Bush said the holidays are a time to mourn U.S. troops who have died in overseas missions and to find ways to help others in need, especially those whose lives were shattered by Hurricane Katrina.
In his Saturday radio address, Bush also recognized the burden military families endure when loved ones are abroad.
"During the holiday season and throughout the year, we think with pride of the men and women of our armed forces, who are keeping our nation safe and defending freedom around the world," he said. "In Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, they are protecting our liberty by spreading liberty to others, and all Americans are grateful to our troops for their courage and commitment."
Bush taped the address at the White House on Thursday before leaving for a long holiday weekend with family members at Camp David, Md. Saturday morning, Bush called nine members of the Armed Forces serving overseas, including some soldiers in Iraq, a spokesman said.
"He wanted to let them know he was thinking of them and their families throughout this holiday, and the American people are behind them," spokesman Allen Abney said. Bush and his relatives planned a busy Christmas Eve.
They were attending a candlelight service at the Camp David chapel with military families and watching the annual Christmas pageant put on by children of U.S. troops.
Among those joining the president and his wife, Laura, at the wooded compound in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains are Bush's parents, former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara; Mrs. Bush's mother, Jenna Welch; and the first couple's twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
A presidential Christmas Day menu
The first family's menu for Christmas Day lunch includes herb-roasted free range turkey, corn bread dressing, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, green beans, sweet potato souffle, pumpkin and pecan pies and red velvet cake.
The president and first lady fly to their ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Monday, returning to Washington on New Year's Day.
In his broadcast, Bush urged Americans to look for ways to volunteer their time and talents to those in need.
"There are many among us who are hurting and require a helping hand," he said, citing the victims of hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast. "We pray for their strength as they continue to recover and rebuild their lives and their communities."
The president said the holiday also is a time to remember heroic men and woman who died in war.
"We pray that God will comfort the loved ones they left behind," he said. "The sacrifices of these brave troops have rescued millions from lives of tyranny and sorrow, and made America more secure. We will always cherish the memory of each of our fallen servicemen and women, and count it a privilege to be citizens of the country they served."