- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Michelle Obama wants to see more stories about military families on TV and in movies, so she came to Hollywood to do something about it.

The first lady met with members of the writers, producers, directors and actors unions at the Writers Guild Theater to discuss Joining Forces, an initiative aimed at increasing public consciousness and support of military families.

Mrs. Obama said she created the initiative with the vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, to help the nation understand “that when our country goes to war, we have families that are serving right along with them.”

During Monday’s hourlong program, Mrs. Obama shared the stage with a National Guard pilot, a retired soldier and the wife of an Army officer. Writer-director J.J. Abrams, whose film, “Super 8,” topped the weekend box office, moderated the discussion.

The service members said simple gestures of thanks are often the most meaningful, such as receiving care packages while deployed or being welcomed home at the airport by a clapping, flag-waving crew.

Mrs. Obama suggested that Hollywood storytellers - and all Americans - can benefit by visiting military hospitals and hearing military stories firsthand.

“It’s not just research,” she said, “it’s an experience.”

The first lady is doing some military storytelling of her own during her visit to Los Angeles: She is set to tape an episode of Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” about the main character’s efforts to connect with her dad on his birthday. Mrs. Obama plays herself in the episode, in which two of Carly’s friends try to set up a father-daughter birthday Web chat.

Mrs. Obama’s daughters are “iCarly” fans, so her role on the show makes her “the coolest mom on the face of the planet,” she said. Though she has been diligently studying her lines, Mrs. Obama admitted Monday: “I am terrified.”

She said the “iCarly” episode is a perfect example of how stories about military families fit perfectly into our everyday entertainment.

She said she hopes that the Joining Forces initiative inspires Americans to understand the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families, and that appreciating them becomes part of our national fabric.

It’s important Hollywood gets the message, she said, because TV and film have the power to teach.

“In the end, this isn’t just about the stories, but about having the men and women and their families who serve our country feel the gratitude every day from a grateful nation,” Mrs. Obama said. “If we set this foundation, not just for today but for forever, regardless of whom the president is in office, that this is a part of who we are as Americans and lifting these families up … then we’ve been successful.”

Mrs. Obama also made appearances at two private fundraisers during her visit to Los Angeles on Monday.