U.S. Army/Sgt. Robert Traxel - Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler and his then-fiancee, Jessica Hansen, react Dec. 6 to the surprise of a home makeover by “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on ABC.

By Colleen Flaherty

Fort Hood Herald

SALADO - Dozens of Fort Hood soldiers had a front-row seat Sunday at the unveiling of the newest "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" project.

Staff of the ABC television show announced only last Monday that they would build a home on Hester Way for Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who was critically wounded during the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting on post, and his then-fiancee, Jessica Hansen.

When the call for volunteers went out, Fort Hood's 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade answered.

The weeklong, ground-up project was a chance to help out a fellow soldier and train at the same time, said Lt. Col. Corey Spencer, battalion commander. "We just heard about it on the news and we were interested because we have plumbers, carpenters, electricians and technical skills that a general person couldn't provide."

About 70 battalion soldiers volunteered over the course of the week, he said, atypically applying their skills to the residential realm. "It was a win-win for us."

Volunteering earned many soldiers a prime spot during the unveiling Sunday, when thousands of Central Texans elbowed their way to get a peek at the Zeiglers, who wed earlier in the day at a Fort Hood Chapel.

After hours of waiting, the crowd went wild as Staff Sgt. and Mrs. Zeigler arrived and stepped out of their white Rolls Royce, he in his Army dress blue uniform and she in an ivory-colored wedding gown.

After seeing their home for the first time, Mrs. Zeigler helped her husband inside in his wheelchair. Hit four times in the Fort Hood shooting, including once in head, Staff Sgt. Zeigler spent the better part of year in the hospital and is still recovering.

The reportedly 2,800-square-foot house is a stone, Texas-style home with modern beaming in the front. The interior is modern, with red accents and kitchen cabinets.

"It's a great place for Staff Sgt. Zeigler to live as he continues his recovery and his work at Fort Hood, of course," Spencer said.

The house also features a workout room to further aid Staff Sgt. Zeigler is his recovery, volunteer Regina Powell, 41, of Harker Heights, said.

"My family thinks I'm crazy," she said of her weeklong volunteer stint and incessant chatter about "Extreme Makeover."

The nonprofit organization Operation Finally Home bought the Salado lot, said staff member Stefan Wohl, in addition to the adjacent lot for a future home for a wounded soldier.

Texas-based Tilson Home Corp., the Texas Association of Builders and about 2,000 other volunteers built the home.

The show is expected to air sometime in the next six to eight weeks, possibly around Valentine's Day. It will feature footage of the Zeiglers' wedding reception, which was held on their property Sunday evening. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on ABC.

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.

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