By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO - Televisions across the country were tuned in to ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" Sunday night, but a special viewing party took place at Salado's Silver Spur Theater.
Among the 130 guests were the episode's stars, Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, and his wife, Jessica, who learned in late fall that they would be visited by the "Extreme Makeover" home building team. The news came one year after Patrick was critically wounded during the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood.
A hush fell over the theater as the Zeiglers arrived a few minutes prior to the live telecast. 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 hour-long episode, some during sad moments depicting Patrick's 10-month fight for 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.
The "big reveal" of their new Salado home took place Dec. 12. The couple was married on post that morning. A reception was held that evening on the Zeiglers' property.
The build began in early December. Thousands of lay, professional and soldier volunteers converged on Salado to make possible the construction of the 2,800-square-foot house on Hester Way in 106 hours.
Sunday's Salado viewing party was arranged by Tilson Homes, one of the sponsors who made the home build possible. Silver Spur co-founder Grainger Esch donated the theater for the evening.
Local Tilson executive Terry Weaver said that tickets to the viewing had been 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, was modest about her involvement in the project.
"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.
Martin's mother, Lynette Jones, owner of Salado's McCain's Bakery and Café, catered the viewing party.
The community's continued outpouring of support for its newest neighbors exemplifies Salado, she said.
"I don't know how the community put this together, but I'm so proud of Salado."
The national nonprofit Operation Finally Home donated the Zeiglers' lot to the "Extreme Makeover" team. Director Dan Wallrath also sang Salado's praises.
When ABC finally committed to the project, Operation Finally Home knew it had to be Salado, he said.
"We had to pick the perfect spot for Patrick and Jessica," he said. "We just fell in love with it."
Harker Heights Herald editor Sonya Campbell contributed to this report.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.