By Andy Ross
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO - During a Monday afternoon ceremony closing out the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" project in Salado, Jessica Zeigler briefly wiped tears away from her eyes as she stood beside her husband, Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler.
Behind the couple was their brand-new home, courtesy of the ABC show that had just spent the previous week filming a frantic construction process.
In front of them, a small crowd of sponsors announced housewarming gifts ranging from new artwork to a year's worth of free electricity. The moment was only the latest in a hectic week under the lights and cameras. Just the day before the Zeiglers had wed in a ceremony at Fort Hood before being whisked away by a Rolls Royce to their new residence, where a crowd in the thousands awaited. Asked upon completion of the ceremony Monday if it all wasn't a bit overwhelming, Jessica gave a big smile. "It's a good kind of overwhelming," she said.
To say that the past 13 months have been an emotional roller coaster for Patrick and Jessica would likely be an understatement. First came the fateful day of Nov. 5, 2009, when Patrick was critically wounded in the Fort Hood shooting. With Jessica by his side, he embarked on a long and painful road toward recovery that is still ongoing.
Things took a dramatically different turn, however, when word came down in recent weeks that they had been selected to receive a new home through "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," an Emmy award-wining show hosted by Ty Pennington.
The project began last week when thousands of volunteers converged on Salado to make possible the construction of the 2,800 square-foot-house in 106 hours. Monday's ceremony was the first time both Patrick and Jessica had the chance to address the public.
"I can't even put into words what this means to us," Jessica said. "Everyone has been so kind and welcomed us to this community. With this new home we can have a safe beginning together."
Patrick briefly spoke about the moment they were notified by the Extreme Makeover team that they had been selected as recipients. "They were hiding in the back of a couple of Bradley fighting vehicles," Zeigler said. "We weren't at home. So we were very surprised when they jumped out the back."
Asked later what her favorite aspect of the residence is, Jessica didn't hesitate. "It's that it's ours," she said. "We're excited to begin unpacking."
Contact Andy Ross at email@example.com or (254) 501-7468.
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