President Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited the Coast Guard Brant Station on Nantucket Thursday, thanking the service members for their service and sacrifice. The Bidens are spending Thanksgiving on the Massachusetts island as part of their annual family tradition.

Mr. Biden and the first lady spoke with service members and snapped pictures with them. 

“What am I thankful for? I’m not joking when I say I’m thankful for these guys,” the president told the Coast Guard. “Thankful for them and everybody — I mean that from the bottom of my heart. 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 and Iraq, watching them in South America — wherever they are. 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…”

U.S. President Joe Biden greets military service members on Thanksgiving Day, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, November 25, 2021.

Tasos Katopodis / Reuters

Mr. Biden then spoke about his late son, Beau, who served in the military. 

In his Thanksgiving proclamation Wednesday, the president recognized that many Americans will be gathering without their loved ones lost to the pandemic, and empathized with their pain. 

“As we celebrate, we will also be thinking of the many families feeling the pain of an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table,” Mr. Biden said. “You are not alone, and our nation stands with you.” 

Bo Erickson contributed reporting.