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Family Matters Blog: Blogger Meets ‘Extreme Makeover’ Star

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2011 – I must admit I was a bit starstruck last week while visiting the set of a military-focused episode of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in Fayetteville, N.C.

A few of my long-time home-designing favorites, including Ty Pennington and Paul DiMeo, were there in full force, putting their designing skills to the test to turn a modest 1,500-square-foot ranch-style home into a sprawling 5,000-square-foot complex in one short week.

The designers and more than 3,000 volunteers had joined together to build Barbara Marshall a new center for homeless female veterans called the Jubilee House. The 15-year Navy veteran established the center last year with her own funds to provide shelter and resources to female veterans in need.

After a week of round-the-clock construction, the house was picture perfect July 21 and ready for Marshall’s arrival. A crowd of well-wishers and volunteers gathered early, braving the oppressive heat to watch a deserving veteran receive a new home.

By the time the limo pulled up, carrying Marshall and her family, we all were dripping with sweat and covered in dirt, stepping lightly to avoid the discarded water bottles scattered across the ground. But all that was forgotten as Marshall stepped out and faced the famous “Extreme Makeover” bus blocking her view of the house.

Surprise guest First Lady Michelle Obama stepped out of the bus to cheers and applause as the crowd began to chant: “Move that bus! Move that bus!”

The bus pulled away and Marshall’s jaw dropped as she took in her new home, complete with a porch, upstairs deck and immaculately landscaped lawn.

“When I saw Mrs. Obama and the new home, all I could think of was ‘Yay,’” she told me during an interview the next day. “I know that’s not that profound, but I said it in my heart and my mind and my spirit, and then I said, ‘Astounding. Help is here -- tremendous help.’”

This new and improved Jubilee House will enable Marshall to take in more female veterans than ever before, while also offering expanded resources to help them.

Marshall said it’s the least she can do for her fellow veterans. “A homeless woman has children -- brings with her homeless children,” she said. “I think that our nation is not prepared for that kind of legacy. We need to leave a good, positive legacy for our women vets and for their children.”

As I walked away from that interview and with familiar faces from TV all around, I realized I had just met the true star of the show.

The “Extreme Makeover” episode featuring Marshall is scheduled to air Oct. 21 on ABC.

For more on my trip to Fayetteville, read my American Forces Press Service article, “First Lady Joins Navy Veteran on ‘Extreme Makeover’.” For more on Marshall and her efforts to aid homeless veterans, visit “Navy Veteran Devotes Life to Helping Homeless Female Vets.”

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