'They make me proud': Biden meets with Coast Guard after virtual meeting with service members

The president is in Nantucket with his family.

Nantucket, MA -- President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spent the first part of their holiday hosting a virtual meeting with service members from around the world to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and thank them for their service.

From Coast Guard Station Brant Point in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the Bidens addressed members representing all six military branches -- the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Space Force.

After that, the president met outside with roughly two dozen members of the Coast Guard, shaking their hands and presenting them with challenge coins, which are historically collectible pieces.

Asked by reporters what he was thankful for this year, Biden pointed toward the Coast Guard members and said "from the bottom of my heart" he's thankful for them.

"I've been all over the world, I've watched these people. I've watched them in the South China Sea, I've watched them in Afghanistan, Iraq," Biden said. "Wherever they are, when people wonder what America is, they look and they see them. That's who they see. They don't see us here. They see them, and they make me proud."

Earlier this morning, the president and first lady released a holiday video message to Americans, and speaking as commander-in-chief, Biden said he's "especially grateful" for the sacrifices of service members and their families. As so many American families gather to celebrate, so many military families simply can't.

"Whether your spouse is deployed or you've settled into yet another base," Jill Biden said, "the holidays just aren't the same without the people and the communities that make this holiday special. We are so grateful for your service."

The president said the "blessings of Thanksgiving are especially meaningful" this year after so many families and friends couldn't gather last year because of surging COVID-19 cases.

"We also keep in our hearts those who we've lost," the president said. "And those who have an empty seat at their kitchen table or their dining room table this year because of this virus, or another cruel twist of fate or accident, we pray for them."

Thanksgiving in Nantucket is a decades-long tradition for the Biden family. The first lady also confirmed that they would be taking part once again in the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony Friday afternoon.

"We're all going to be there," she said. "We're all going together."