By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
A hush fell over Salado's Silver Spur Theater Sunday night as Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler and his wife, Jessica, arrived a few moments before the live telecast of their "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" episode on ABC.
The cast and crew of the reality television show, along with more than 1,000 lay, builder and soldier volunteers, helped build the Zeiglers a mortgage-free home on Hester Way in Salado spanning six days in December.
The Zeiglers learned they would receive a home makeover just a little more than one year after Patrick was critically wounded during the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood.
At the time of the shooting, Patrick was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. He is now assigned to the 1st Battalion, Warrior Transition Brigade.
Prior to the show, the still-engaged pair had been living in temporary post housing. They were married on post on Dec. 12, just prior to the "big reveal" of their new, 2,800-square-foot home.
The pair had kept a low public profile since then. Guests at Sunday night's viewing were unaware that the Zeiglers would be in attendance.
Patrick, who was shot four times, including once in the head during the shooting, walked into the theater smiling, his wife by his side.
"I just love her so much, I don't care who knows it," he said before the telecast. "Everyone can cry."
There were tears on the faces of volunteers throughout the hourlong episode, some during sad moments depicting Patrick's 10-month fight for his life, and more during happy ones, such as his breathless, "Oh my God," upon seeing Jessica walk down the aisle toward him during their wedding.
There was also laughter, such as when Patrick called his new backyard - replete with a hot tub and an outdoor movie screen framed by a 1st Cavalry emblem - "P-I-M-P."
The viewing party was arranged by Tilson Homes, one of the sponsors who made the home build possible. Silver Spur co-founder Grainger Esch donated use of the theater.
Local Tilson executive Terry Weaver said tickets to the viewing were distributed through Facebook's Salado "Extreme Makeover" community, and that the company was happy to give back to the volunteers and to the Zeiglers once more.
"We got the opportunity to thank Patrick for what he's done," he said of Tilson's involvement in the build. "And how often do you get to be part of a love story?"
Build volunteer Katlyn Martin, 21, of Salado, attended the viewing party.
"I painted the baseboards in the rehab room," she said, referring to the state-of-the art virtual bike racing room the "Extreme Makeover" team built to facilitate Patrick's ongoing recovery.
During the episode, Patrick attributed his recovery to ambitious physical rehabilitation, and to Jessica.
He simply wouldn't have survived without her, he said.
"It just shows that in this act of violence, love cannot be defeated."
The national nonprofit Operation Finally Home donated the Zeiglers' lot to the "Extreme Makeover" team. Founder Dan Wallrath thanked the Salado community for its support of its newest neighbors before revealing that a new home for another wounded warrior would be built soon on the empty lot next to the Zeiglers'.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.