Reality Show 'Joins Forces' With First Lady to Aid Veteran

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., Sept. 22, 2011 - A TV reality show recently joined forces with first lady Michelle Obama and hundreds of military and civilian volunteers here to transform the life of a Navy

This weekend, the season premiere of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will feature a home makeover for 15-year veteran Barbara Marshall, who has devoted her life to eradicating homelessness among fellow female veterans. Viewers will see the reveal of her new 5,000-square-foot home, as well as a surprise visit from the first lady. The episode airs Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. EDT.
Marshall's new 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 Iraq and Afghanistan. Before the show, Marshall operated out of a tiny, 1,500-square-foot house in which she crowded three homeless women and their families, a resource center, volunteers, and countless other veterans who came through seeking job-hunting assistance and resources.

Now, thanks to hundreds of volunteers who converged here over a week in July, in her old home's place stands a sprawling, red-shingled home with common areas and a giant resource center -- topped by a wraparound porch, decks and a perfectly manicured lawn.

The first lady toured Marshall's new home just after its completion July 21 and summed up the experience with one word: "amazing."

The house is "light and warm and loving," Obama told American Forces Press Service after her tour. "It feels like a home and that's what these women need in times of challenge. They need to go to a place where they can feel incredibly special and this house definitely does that."

Obama lauded Marshall -- whom she called a "strong and courageous woman" -- and her mission to eradicate 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 -- which 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 added. "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."

It's the nation's responsibility to step up to ensure service members, veterans and their families get the support they need, and deserve, Obama said.

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."

Military families are proud and often don't ask for much-needed help, Obama noted. "It's incumbent on all of us to look in our own spaces -- whether it's in our churches or in our schools -- to make sure we know who these families are and to ask who needs help," she said. Not everyone may live near a military base, but veterans, families and service members are in nearly every community across the nation.

"Whether a business owner or multinational organization or small nonprofit or church or school or neighbor down the street," she added, "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."

"This show is a show that really pulls people in," she said. "It highlights not just the good of an individual, but it shows the good of the nation, of a community. They are an example, a model, to so many other shows, businesses, organizations, that can step up by doing what they do best.

"It's important to me to make sure these stories get highlighted," she continued. And "this episode is an excellent way to highlight what they're doing, and also give them something back; something more than they could ever imagine because they deserve it."

Obama encouraged people, military and otherwise, to watch "Extreme Makeover" 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."

The goal, she added, "is to make sure that these families know they live in a nation that cares and values the service and sacrifice they make."

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, 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.

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