By Colleen Flaherty and Sonya Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
Thousands of people turned out to see Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler and his bride, the former Jessica Hansen, enter their new "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" home in Salado for the first time one chilly Sunday in mid-December.
Sunday, millions more can watch the Zeiglers' story when it airs at 7 p.m. on ABC.
The Zeiglers were notified in late fall that they would be the recipients of a new home, courtesy of the reality television show. Sgt. Zeigler was critically wounded during the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood, and his then-fiancee put her life on hold to be by his side throughout his ongoing recovery.
The build began in early December. Thousands of volunteers converged on Salado to make possible the construction of the 2,800-square-foot house on Hester Way in 106 hours.
Professional builders, lay community volunteers and dozens of soldiers from the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, in addition to other Fort Hood personnel, worked round-the-clock through Dec. 12 to ready the home for the Zeiglers, who were married on post that morning.
Down a flag-lined Hester Way that afternoon, the Zeiglers passed mobs of spectators, volunteers, friends and family in a white Rolls-Royce to attend the show's trademark "big reveal." A wedding reception on the Zeiglers' property followed.
"I can't even put into words what this means to us," Jessica Zeigler said in December. "Everyone has been so kind and welcomed us to this community. With this new home we can have a safe beginning together."
Many of the volunteers will be watching the show Sunday at viewing parties, including the official one for the build team, sponsors and partners in Austin.
Locally, a viewing party is planned in Salado and is being provided by Tilson Homes, one of the sponsors who made the home build possible. However, all of the tickets for that event already have been distributed.
About 130 are expected to attend the Salado viewing, Tilson Homes President Eddie Martin said. He noted many volunteers bonded during the home build and are staying in touch through Facebook.
Steven Smith, 22, of Hutto, who served as a volunteer, agreed.
"Lifelong friends were made there, helping someone we didn't know," Smith said.
Laura Luedeke, who lives a few houses down from the Zeiglers, also volunteered at the home build.
She said the event helped bolster relationships in the neighborhood.
"It really brought all of us neighbors closer together," she said. "We'll all be watching (the show) Sunday night."
Herald reporter Andy Ross contributed to this report.