WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta expressed his gratitude to service members and their families in a Thanksgiving message:
For the past 10 Thanksgivings, our nation has been at war. For 10 Thanksgivings, our troops have been deployed to the battle zones and around the world, defending our freedom and putting their lives on the line.
I am thankful for your service and for your steadfast commitment to keeping all of us safe. My thoughts and prayers will also be with your families, whose love, support and sacrifice are essential to your success.
I know that this can be a difficult time for service members and their loved ones who must spend it apart from each other. To those deployed away from home, and to their families: You are making a real difference every day and keeping our country strong and safe.
As all Americans pause to take stock of our blessings of freedom and liberty, I want you to know that we can only do so because of your willingness to bear the burden and hardship of providing for our security.
Throughout our history, America has faced serious challenges - economic, social, political and military crises. This is one of those periods. And yet, the spirit of the American people remains our greatest strength to overcome whatever crisis we confront. That great spirit is reflected in you - our men and women in uniform. Hopefully, your example of courage and bravery can inspire others to do the right thing.
On this Thanksgiving, as our nation remains at war, Sylvia and I join all of you in one simple prayer: Peace on Earth and goodwill to all. We wish for all our service members and their families to enjoy a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!