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Family Matters Blog: Reality Show Features First Lady, Veteran

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2011 – Several months ago, I traveled to Fayetteville, N.C., to watch hundreds of volunteers build a Navy veteran a new home, courtesy of the ABC reality show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” (Read about my trip here.)

Click photo for screen-resolution image
First Lady Michelle Obama greets Navy veteran Barbara Marshall on the set of the ABC reality series "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" in Fayetteville, N.C., July 21, 2011. Obama appeared on the show to thank Marshall for her work to support homeless female veterans. DOD photo by Elaine Sanchez

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

This weekend, Barbara Marshall’s new home will be revealed on the show’s season premiere, which airs Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. EDT. The episode highlights Marshall’s quest to eradicate homelessness among fellow female veterans and features service members of every branch.

First Lady Michelle Obama, a staunch military family advocate, also makes a special appearance to impress the importance of military family support – both during service and well beyond.

Marshall’s new 5,000-squre-foot home, dubbed the Steps-n-Stages Jubilee House, offers shelter, job coaching and other services and resources to homeless female veterans from all eras of war, including the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I had the opportunity to interview the first lady July 21 after she toured Marshall’s new home. Obama lauded Marshall -- whom she called a “strong and courageous woman” -- and her mission to end homelessness among female veterans.

“It’s a powerful story of how veterans are continuing to serve this country even when they are no longer in uniform,” she said. “The fact that this woman has opened her home – [although] she didn’t have much -- to other women who are struggling, is just a powerful statement of the courage and the strength that our veterans show.”

Like Marshall, the nation must take steps to eradicate veteran homelessness, the first lady said.

Service members “put their lives on the line for us, and they do it without question or hesitation,” Obama said. “When they are finished with their service, they should have a level of security and stability, not just for themselves but for their families.

“We as a nation,” she added, “should be outraged by the reality that there are any homeless veterans in this country.”

Earlier this year, the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched the Joining Forces campaign, a national initiative that calls on all sectors of society to support troops, veterans and their families. The motto of this campaign, she noted, is “everyone can do something.”

“Whether a business owner or multinational organization or small nonprofit or church or school or neighbor down the street,” she said, “everyone can find their own strength and gift and figure out how to share that with these families.

“If we all do that, we will end this challenge of having homeless veterans.”

The first lady cited “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” as an example of people stepping up in a “huge, magnificent way.”

Obama encouraged people to watch the show this weekend. “Make sure your kids watch it,” she said. “Tell them about this issue and then think about what you can do as a family. It doesn’t have to be big; it doesn’t have to be grand. It just has to be something.”

With this episode wrapped up, the producers of “Extreme Makeover” once again are seeking military families to feature this season. People can submit nominations via email to Jackie Topacio, casting producer, at jax@emhe.tv, through Sept. 29. The email should include the names and ages of household members, a description of the family’s challenges, an explanation of why the family is deserving of a makeover or is a positive role model in the community, photos of the family and their home and contact numbers. For more information on the application process, visit http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/index?pn=apply.


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