Good morning. This week, Americans across our Nation gather with loved ones to give thanks for the many blessings we share. We're grateful for our friends and families, who fill our lives with meaning and purpose. We're grateful to live in a land of plenty and during a time of great prosperity. And we're grateful to Almighty God for the freedom to enjoy all these gifts.
Every Thanksgiving, we remember the story of the Pilgrims who came to America in search of a better life and religious freedom. Much has changed in the four centuries since these humble settlers landed at Plymouth Rock. While they were only a shivering few, we are now a strong and growing Nation of more than 300 million. And the desire for freedom that led the Pilgrims to the New World still guides our Nation today.
Americans believe that every person has the right to live, work, and worship in freedom. And we're thankful to the men and women of our Nation's armed forces who risk their lives to protect those rights. This Thanksgiving, we are mindful that many of our finest citizens are spending the holiday far from their homes and loved ones, and we know that their service makes it possible for us to live in freedom.
On Tuesday, I had the chance to visit our troops and their families at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. Our service members there have deployed around the world — to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, conduct important maritime exercises in the Pacific, help deliver humanitarian aid to the victims of disaster, and fight drug trafficking. I told the men and women at the base that we're grateful for their bravery and service and that we will never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
One American who made the ultimate sacrifice was Marine Corporal Jason Dunham. Two-and-a-half years ago in Iraq, Corporal Dunham gave his life when he threw himself on top of an enemy grenade and absorbed the blast. His selfless act saved the lives of two of his fellow Marines, and earlier this month I announced that our Nation will recognize Corporal Dunham with our highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor.
Corporal Dunham's friends remember him as the kind of guy who would do anything for you, his superiors remember him as a model Marine, and a grateful Nation will forever remember him as one of America's most valiant heroes. This Thanksgiving, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and with all military families, especially those mourning the loss of a loved one.
During this holiday season, we also think of those still working to recover from the devastating hurricanes that struck our Nation last year. We are grateful to the armies of compassion who rallied to bring food, water, and hope to those who had lost everything, and we renew our commitment to help those who are still suffering and to rebuild our Nation's Gulf Coast.
Thanksgiving reminds us that the true strength of our Nation is the compassion and decency of our people. And as we count our blessings, we remember that those blessings are meant to be shared. I encourage all Americans to look for a way to help those in need — from tutoring a child, to working in a shelter, to giving a hand to a neighbor. I thank all those Americans who volunteer this season, and Laura and I wish every American a safe and happy holiday.
Thank you for listening.