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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — While most servicemembers overseas look forward to holiday phone calls from loved ones back home, only one Marine here can say he received a special greeting straight from the boss: the commander in chief.

Cpl. Steven Meranda, the outbound section chief at Division Personnel on Camp Courtney, received the phone call from President Bush, who placed the calls from Camp David, Md., at about 10:30 p.m. Christmas Eve. He said the call, which he took in the staff duty office on the camp, lasted about one minute.

“He just wished me a Merry Christmas and said he was proud of the job me and the Marines … are doing here … . He also wanted me to extend his season’s greetings to all the Marines around me,” said 22-year-old Meranda, who hails from Boston. “He also said to keep up the good work and that they are all praying for us and they’re proud of everything we’re doing for the country.”

Meranda, who admitted he was nervous, said the White House switchboard then transferred him to his mother’s house for a “morale call.”

“I just spoke to her for a few minutes,” he said during a telephone interview. “I didn’t want to tie up the staff duty line. I just described the phone call [with the president].”

Meranda learned he was in the running to receive the presidential call about a month ago, and he found out he was selected two weeks before Christmas. He said he thought he was considered for the honor because he was recently meritoriously promoted to his present rank.

“I was surprised that of all the Marines on Okinawa, my name was selected,” he said.

According to a report by The Associated Press, Meranda was the only Marine worldwide who got a Christmas Eve presidential call. The president phoned nine servicemembers — Meranda and two each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

“The president wished them a merry Christmas and thanked them for their service to our country,” said White House spokesman Allen Abney, according to the AP report. “He just wanted to tell them that he was thinking of them and their families at this holiday season.”


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