Trump becomes first president since 2002 not to visit troops on or before Christmas
Though he called military personnel on Tuesday, Trump did not visit a hospital or a military base.
President George W. Bush with Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Stipp after presenting him with two Purple Heart medals at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Dec. 22, 2008.Eric Draper / The White House via Reuters file
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Editor's note: On Wednesday, NBC News compiled a list of every Christmastime visit to active troops by a president since 2001. That list, as detailed in the article below, showed that former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama visited troops on or before Christmas every year since 2003, and President Donald Trump did so in 2017. As of the end of Christmas Day 2018, Trump had not visited troops during the holiday season, and had announced no plans to do so. The article was correct, but on Dec. 26, the situation changed. Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, made an unannounced visit to troops in Iraq. As a result, the thrust of this article is no longer correct, even if it was at the time. In the interest of transparency, we are keeping the article on NBCNews.com so that the record will reflect the situation on the day the article was published, and are directing readers to the article about Trump’s Iraq visit here. We are also altering one line in the article, as well as the headline, to be more specific and to note that Trump was the first president since 2002 who didn't visit military personnel on or before Christmas, rather than at Christmastime.
On Christmas Day, President Donald Trump took part in a long-running practice of presidents who called troops stationed around the country and the world.
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But he broke from a recent tradition of actually visiting troops and wounded warriors. He did so in 2017, when he visited wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Dec. 21 (and invited Coast Guard service members to play golf at his course in West Palm Beach, Florida).
By staying home on Tuesday, Trump became the first president since 2002 who didn't visit military personnel on or before Christmas.
Based on a check of NBC logs, President Barack Obama visited troops at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay, every Christmas he was in office, from 2009 to 2016.
Before him, according to a check of news releases, President George W. Bush visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed from 2003 to 2008. He did not visit troops at Christmas in 2002, in the run-up to the Iraq War, or in 2001.
In recent months, Trump has taken heat from critics for not visiting troops in an active combat zone, after canceling a trip to an American military burial ground outside of Paris last month due to weather and skipping the traditional Veterans Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery just two days later.
At the time, the president told FOX News’ Chris Wallace that he should have gone to Arlington, and he hasn’t visited a combat zone because he’s “had an unbelievably busy schedule,” adding, “I will be doing it.”
Trump made the trip to Arlington several weeks later to lay a wreath as part of Wreaths Across America, but still has yet to visit an active combat zone.
At this point in their presidencies, Obama visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush visited Iraq just eight months after the start of the war in 2003.
Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner is a producer in the NBC News Washington bureau.