Obama called members from each of the military services and participated in a conference call with troops in West Africa. A White House summary of the calls said Obama told them their varied missions, from helping to stamp out Ebola to prosecuting the war against Islamic State militants, had one primary objective — keeping the American people safe and secure.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel made similar calls, contacting an Air Force captain in Kuwait, a Marine sergeant in Liberia, an Army lieutenant in Afghanistan, and a Navy petty officer on a ship in the Arabian Gulf. Hagel, who submitted his resignation under pressure from the president earlier this week, thanked the service members for their sacrifices for the nation, the Pentagon said.
On the menu for dinner, there was thyme-roasted turkey and honey-baked ham, cornbread stuffing and oyster stuffing, braised winter greens and macaroni and cheese. Don't forget the green-bean casserole, sweet potato gratin, mashed potatoes and dinner rolls.
If there was room for dessert, the Obamas had their pick from among six pies: banana cream, coconut cream, pumpkin, apple, pecan and cherry.
The president prefers pumpkin.
"The proper way to eat your pie is you should have just a little whipped cream on top," Obama told ABC's Robin Roberts during a pre-Thanksgiving pie-tasting with Michelle Obama in the White House kitchen.
"We go all out on pies. We don't play with pie," the president said, leading the first lady to respond: "I mean, this is why you work out every day."
"Actually, Michelle only eats kale on Thanksgiving," Obama said as he teased his wife, who has made healthy eating her focus as first lady. "There's kale soup and there's kale stuffing ..."
"That's not true," she said.
During their conversation with Roberts, which aired Thursday night as part of a special, "Thank You, America," the president joked that his wife "never lets me share dessert."
"'Cause he eats it like that," Mrs. Obama said. "Look, the crust is gone. Everything that makes a pie delicious is gone in his one bite!"
The president said in his weekly radio and Internet address that the first family planned to spend the day with friends and relatives — catching up, eating good food and watching some football.
He said Thanksgiving is his favourite holiday "because, more than any other, it is uniquely American."
Obama also said it's a good idea for others during the holidays to thank military members for their services.
"The sacrifices they make are extraordinary," he told ABC.