LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michelle Obama found an unusual ally — reality TV — in her effort to bring attention to the needs of military families.

The first lady, appearing Sunday on the two-part season premiere of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” says the program was the right platform for the cause.

“We live in a media age, and one of the things we still share is our love of television” and the stories it can tell so effectively, Obama said. “We thought this was an extraordinary venue to highlight the struggles and challenges and triumphs of a special family.”

Barbara Marshall of Fayetteville, N.C., who served in the Navy for 15 years, was dismayed by the number of homeless female veterans and established Steps-N-Stages Jubilee House to provide shelter, counseling and other aid. When the house grew cramped and inadequate, “Extreme Makeover” and the first lady stepped in.

She joined with series host Ty Pennington, a local builder and community volunteers on the Jubilee House project and was on hand at the unveiling to surprise Marshall.

The episode focuses on a “powerful story, powerful woman, powerful group of women who are coming together and helping one another. So we’re pretty excited about this as a vehicle for telling their story,” Obama said.

Marshall is evidence that many military families who face their own challenges “still find ways to serve others,” Obama said.

The show should also carry the message that strong, independent veterans might not ask for help and seek assistance, she said. Obama said she hadn’t seen the program in its finished version.

“So it’s incumbent upon us to not make them ask for help. And, hopefully, by watching this show, viewers will get some ideas in their heads of how they can come together, whether it’s as individuals, or as church groups, or as school groups, or as teachers or as employers” and find ways to help military families, she said.

The first lady is also seen on more familiar ground in the show, giving Pennington a tour of the White House grounds.

She and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, help lead Joining Forces, an initiative intended to increase public awareness and support of families of the men and women serving in the military.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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