By Cleve Bryan

MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., (CBS) — Addressing a packed aircraft hangar, President Barack Obama gave troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst a holiday thank you.

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“We can gather with family and friends because you’re willing to hug yours goodbye and step forward to serve,” said Obama, “you never stop serving, you never stop giving. You guys are like Santa in fatigues.”

The President last visited the base during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. This trip comes two weeks prior to completion of America’s 13 year combat mission in Afghanistan.

“There are people here who have lost really good friends, patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice, including 54 fallen heroes from this base who we will honor forever,” said Obama.

In January there will be only about 11,000 troops left in Afghanistan and half that by the end of next year.

The President talked about the need to eradicate ISIS from the Middle East saying, “make no mistake, our coalition isn’t just going to degrade this barbaric terrorist organization, we’re going to destroy it.

Here at home some fear cuts to military spending, in particular phasing out KC-10 refueling aircraft could put the Joint Base at risk in the future.

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“It’s an important base to keep active and keep driving critical missions here,” says Tom MacArthur (R) the Congressman elect for the 3rd District.

Several members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation as well as Governor Chris Christie met with the President.

“They were already lobbying me about the base on the way in, so they’re doing a good job,” said Obama to the thousands of servicemen and women representing each branch of the military.

Service members said it was a thrilling afternoon.

“That was the first for seeing all of us together, it’s nice to be together as a group,” says Abby Mullen, U.S. Air Force.

“I felt like it was a great experience, it’s something I didn’t every think I’d get to experience growing up right outside of here in Camden, New Jersey,” says Nigel Jones, U.S. Navy.

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