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First Lady Praises Military Families, Lauds Efforts to Help Veterans

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2011 – First lady Michelle Obama praised military families and applauded a Navy veteran who is working to help homeless women veterans in Fayetteville, N.C.

Writing in an op-ed piece published today in the Fayetteville Observer newspaper, Obama said the strength, courage and patriotism of military families took her breath away, inspired her and motivated her to learn more about them.

Military families are “your neighbors who raise children and manage households by themselves while their loved ones are deployed,” she said in the op-ed. “They’re military kids who have lived most of their young lives with our nation at war and Mom or Dad overseas. They’re our wounded warriors or survivors of our fallen who continue to serve their community every day.”

Her piece appeared before broadcast of an Extreme Makeover television show in which hundreds of people worked this past summer to build a state-of-the-art facility for Jubilee House, an effort led by 15-year Navy veteran Barbara Marshall, of Fayetteville, as part of the Steps 'N Stages program for homeless female veterans.

"She's doing it in an unconventional way: by welcoming these struggling women and their families into her own home," Obama said of Marshall. "The Marshalls -- Barbara; her son, Bert; and her daughter, Maya -- are perfect examples of how much our military families give to our country each and every day. And this summer, a whole busload of people stepped up to give the Marshalls something back.

“For one week in the sweltering heat, local volunteers and the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition cast and crew worked around the clock to transform Barbara’s home into a beautiful, state-of-the-art dream house and resource center,” Obama said. “I was thrilled to help out with some of the finishing touches, and I’ll never forget the look on Barbara’s face when the bus pulled away to reveal her new home.”

The first lady said the Fayetteville community’s “warm embrace of this family and our homeless veterans,” was her strongest memory of the event.

“I saw neighbors grabbing shovels and picking up scraps around the worksite. I saw business owners and local organizations pitching in. Even folks around the country got involved, donating logs online to help build the beautiful cabin,” Obama said.

The first lady said the compassion she witnessed in Fayetteville is alive and well in every community across this country.

“That’s what compelled Dr. Jill Biden and me to launch our Joining Forces initiative this spring,” Obama said. “This is a national initiative to address the unique needs of, and expand opportunities for, our remarkable military families.”

The initiative seeks to bring together businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools, churches, and ordinary citizens to do whatever they can for service members, veterans and their families. “And it’s about everyone – no matter where they come from or their station in life – stepping up to give something meaningful back,” she said.

Obama congratulated the people of Fayetteville for serving as an example to the rest of the country, and she asked all Americans to go to www.joiningforces.gov to see how they can also help.

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