By Sonya Campbell
Harker Heights Herald
SALADO - Months of waiting are finally coming to fruition for volunteers who helped build a home for a Fort Hood soldier and his new bride - Staff Sgt. Patrick and Jessica Zeigler of Salado - whose story will be featured on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC.
Several viewing parties are planned in celebration of the event. The official viewing party for the build team, sponsors and partners will take place at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin.
In Bell County, Tilson Homes, one of the sponsors who made the build possible, is sponsoring a viewing in Salado for the volunteers who worked on the Zeiglers' home. All of the tickets for the event have been distributed, organizers said.
Tilson Homes President Eddie Martin said the company has a history of building homes for wounded soldiers through Operation Finally Home and wanted to do something to help locally when it was given the opportunity to do so. He described working at the build site in Salado as an insightful experience and commended the Fort Hood soldiers who assisted with the effort.
Martin said the degree of dedication shown by the soldiers in their work was akin to that displayed by Jessica Zeigler, who remained at Patrick's side at the hospital after he was severely wounded in the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting.
"You see it in Jessica's support of Patrick and what he went through," Martin said. "Getting to know them has been a real honor."
Tilson Homes also wanted to show its support for the volunteers who helped build the Zeiglers' new home and sponsoring a viewing party provided that opportunity.
"So many people were interested in going to it," Martin said.
About 130 ticket holders are expected at the viewing in Salado.
"We're doing viewing parties at each of our 10 locations, Martin noted.
Overall, he said, it was a great honor for Tilson to be a part, in a very small way, of the Fort Hood community.
"It was a truly moving experience. It was well worth the effort in the amount of work that goes into the project," he said.
Although Martin acknowledged planning out the construction to the smallest detail was challenging, he was pleased to hear from the show's producers that "it was one of the smoothest builds they have ever had."
One of the volunteers planning to attend the viewing party in Salado is Steven Smith of Hutto, who spent about 70 hours at the build site doing everything from roofing to framing to helping serve food.
He described helping the Zeiglers as an amazing opportunity.
"I was in Killeen when the shooting happened, and I know a bunch of the firefighters and EMTs that were out there. It hits home. You wouldn't think something like that would happen at Fort Hood," Smith said.
He noted helping build the Zeiglers a home was a small way of showing support for the troops.
Something surprising that resulted from the event was the camaraderie among the volunteers.
"Lifelong friends were made there, helping someone we didn't know," Smith said.
He's looking forward to seeing many of them Sunday.
One of the Zeiglers' new neighbors, Laura Luedeke, also served as a volunteer - going so far as to use her own vacuum to clean the VIP tent.
"We are thrilled to have them in the neighborhood. Jessica was super nice to our son when we met her for the first time. ... They are talking about the Nerf wars they are going to have together," Luedeke said.
She said waiting for the show to air, after it was filmed in December, hasn't been easy.
"It's been difficult because we are asked so much about it and we cannot wait to see how all the hard work is going to be pieced together," she said. "We are excited the date is finally here."
Contact Sonya Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7585.