CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush said Thursday that he's thankful for troops serving in a time of war as he made Thanksgiving Day phone calls to 10 members of the U.S. military services stationed around the world.
From his ranch here, Bush called troops serving in the Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Army early Thursday morning before sitting down for dinner with his family.
"He thanked all of them on behalf of the American people for their service," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "He said all of them were patriots. He's very proud of them and thankful for them."
Perino said Bush asked those he spoke with to pass the message on to their fellow service members.
Talking to troops has been a tradition for Bush on Thanksgiving. He often makes such phone calls, but in 2003 he went further, surprising soldiers serving in Baghdad by showing up unannounced in their mess hall for the holiday meal.
The White House did not release the names of those the president called this year, but said at least one was serving in Afghanistan, one was in Iraq and one was on a ship at sea. The names were selected by the Defense Department.
Bush also took a morning bike ride Thursday morning, one of his favorite pastimes when he's at the ranch. Then he planned to sit down for dinner with first lady Laura Bush, twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara, and the first lady's mother, Jenna Welch.
Jenna Bush, who along with her sister turns 24 on Friday, brought along boyfriend Henry Hager. Perino said a few other family friends would be there, too, along with the family's cat and two dogs, which were brought along from the White House on Air Force One.
The menu was roasted free-range turkey, fresh-milled cornbread dressing, pan gravy, chipotle maple whipped sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and red peppers, green beans supreme, fruit ambrosia, fresh yeast rolls and orange cranberry relish. Dessert was two kinds of pie — Texas pecan and pumpkin.
Meanwhile, a traditional Iraqi meal that included salmon, lentils and rice with almonds was on the menu for more than 100 anti-war protesters who spent Thanksgiving in a grassy lot about a mile from the Bush ranch.
"We'd be eating turkey and watching football at home, but this war needs to be stopped," Giulia Mannarino of Wind Ridge, Pa., said Thursday.
while eating in a tent with her husband.
Bush arrived in Texas on Tuesday and plans to stay through Monday morning, when he departs for a two-day trip focused on border security that includes stops in Arizona and El Paso, Texas.