PALM BEACH, Fla. -- President Donald Trump's first Christmas Eve in office was a busy one that unfolded like this: tweet against perceived adversaries, cheer U.S. troops spending the holidays overseas, play golf, chat with children anxious to know when Santa will bring their presents, eat dinner with the family and attend a church service.
"Today and every day, we're incredibly thankful for you and for your families," Trump told the troops via video hook-up from his Florida estate, where he is spending the holidays with his family. "Your families have been tremendous. Always underappreciated, the military families. The greatest people on Earth."
Trump briefly addressed members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard stationed in Qatar, Kuwait and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and patrolling the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.
Vice-President Mike Pence rallied U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan during a surprise visit last week.
Trump complimented each branch of the armed forces, starting with the Army's "Iron Brigade" combat team in Kuwait, which he said is performing a "vital mission" by partnering with the Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi Arabian and Jordanian armies.
He said a Kuwait-based, Marine Corps air-ground task force has provided more than 4,000 flight hours of close air support in the campaign against the Islamic State group, and he thanked sailors on board the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Sampson for defending "high-value assets" in the Strait of Hormuz.
Trump also singled out the Air Force's 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron in Qatar for engaging more than 700 IS and Taliban targets in five separate countries, and winning two trophies in an Air Force bomb competition.
He showered the most praise on the Coast Guard, which impressed him with its rescue operations during a devastating hurricane season.
"You've done such an incredible job in Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico," Trump said. "Many Republicans are very happy but, I have to tell you, the people of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and lots of other states are even more happy. What a job you've done ... saved thousands and thousands of lives."
Puerto Ricans, however, may quibble with the president's assessment of their state of mind. Power generation on the U.S. territory is at 65 per cent, with nine of Puerto Rico's 78 municipalities still completely in the dark more than three months after Hurricane Maria walloped the island.
In closing, Trump offered thanks to those who are spending time away from their families to "defend all of our families, our freedoms and our pride."
"Every American heart is thankful to you and we're asking God to watch over you and to watch over your families," he said, before he asked journalists to leave the room so he could begin answering any service member questions.
When it comes to decorating for Christmas downrange, Marines get the job done.
At a dining facility at Al Taqqadum, Iraq, a model gingerbread mansion and surrounding village towered over nearby tables. At Camp Shorab in Helmand province, Afghanistan, a Christmas tree made from green sandbags and strung with lights and decorations turned heads, and durable desert-hued stockings styled after military MOLLE packs adorned an austere office space.
The military goes out of its way to bring the holiday home to troops, packaging up a hot meal to send to a sparsely equipped outpost in Afghanistan and hosting a star-studded USO show at Bagram Airfield. But even so, there's no camouflaging the fact that Christmas away from the comforts of family and home is tough.
Missions outside the wire continued through Christmas day, and flightlines still hummed and screamed as rotary-wing aircraft landed and fighters launched. In Italy, a sumptuous dinner feast of lobster, beef, and a vast array of baked goods interrupted what was otherwise a normal work day for many.
But when Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller stopped by bases in the Middle East and Europe this week on his annual Christmas tour to visit deployed Marines, he spared little time for self-pity.
"For some of you, it may be your first Christmas away from home," he told a group of several hundred Marines near Trondheim, Norway, at the start of his tour. "For some of you, it may be your first Christmas away from home. If you stay in this organization, it won't be your last Christmas away from home. That's just the way it is."
Spending holidays deployed doesn't get any easier, Neller continued. But, he said, troops should rely on each other -- their Marine Corps family -- for support.
"So figure out how to get through this with each other," he said.
The speeches Neller gave at various forward installations were full of admonitions and somber advice. He warned Marines to quit drinking to excess and cautioned them to protect their rank and reputation by avoiding crime and misbehavior. At bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, he scowled as he charged Marines, at all costs, to avoid becoming a casualty of carelessness.
"Don't get blown up," he challenged them.
Of course, it is Boxing Day today so...
And with a lot of Brits and Australians visiting the colonies this week, I'm hoping for a happy Boxing Day myself on board the trolley.