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Bush calls to thank 10 servicemen and women

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- President Bush spoke by telephone yesterday to 10 U.S. servicemen and women stationed in Iraq and elsewhere around the world to thank them for serving their country and spending the holiday season away from their families.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president told them their country is proud of them.

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"He said he couldn't thank them enough for their contribution to their country, hopes they are in high spirits, and that they are serving a cause that is very noble," Perino said. "He said, 'I know that you miss your family.'"

The service members included three soldiers, two Marines, two sailors, two members of the Air Force and one Coast Guard petty officer. Seven were serving in Iraq, one in Afghanistan and two on the high seas - one in the Persian Gulf and one in the Bering Sea.

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The president "asked them to pass on to their colleagues his appreciation and his wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy new year," Perino said.

One of them was Cpl. Orlando Anaya, a Marine from Roswell, N.M., stationed at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq. His father, Ray Anaya, said the phone call was an honor for his son and for the family.

"I wasn't too surprised because I know he deserves it - everyone over there deserves it. But I was honored," the father said from his home in Roswell.

Bush also exchanged holiday greetings with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about recent Turkish attacks on Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq. U.S. officials have acknowledged providing intelligence to Turkey to assist the operations.

Bush is spending the Christmas holiday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Maura Reynolds writes for the Los Angeles Times.



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