SALADO (AP) – A soldier who was severely wounded in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood and his fiancee are getting the house of their dreams, courtesy of the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and an army of volunteers working this week.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who returned home from Iraq two weeks prior to the shooting, was hit four times in last year’s attack and suffered a nearly fatal wound to his head.
He spent the next 10 months battling for his life with his fiancee, Jessica Hansen, by his side. Hansen, a neuropsychology major, put her college degree on hold to aid Zeigler in his recovery, according to information from the show.
Zeigler was at Temple’s Scott & White Hospital for six to seven weeks as he received treatment for his injuries, which included gunshots to the right side of his head, left shoulder, forearm and hip. He was later moved to a rehabilitation clinic in the Austin area where he lived six to seven months for a series of operations.
A bullet shattered the right side of his skull, pushing in his brain and sending fragments of metal and bone into the tissue. The pieces were so small doctors couldn’t remove them, he said in mid-October. Instead they had to take out 18 to 20 percent of his brain.
Zeigler said then he had to learn to walk again. His entire left side was paralyzed and he had very little control of his extremities.
Despite his severe injuries, Zeigler is exceeding doctors’ expectations, according to information from the show. Not only is he walking with the aid of a cane, he returned to work Sept. 8.
Zeigler is a cavalry scout and deployed twice to Iraq with Alpha Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. He returned from Iraq three weeks before his unit in November 2009 because he was preparing to attend Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga.
He is now assigned to the Warrior Transition Brigade’s 1st Battalion.
Team leader Ty Pennington and designers Leigh Anne Tuohy, Paul DiMeo and Xzibit, will work with local builder Tilson Home Corporation, the Texas Association of Builders and Temple-Inland Inc. to pave a new path for the couple “to embark on a lifetime of love and happiness.”
More than 1,000 skilled volunteers are taking part in the effort, as well as about 2,000 unskilled helpers, said Scott Norman, executive director of the Texas Association of Builders. Many of those are Fort Hood soldiers from the 36th Engineer Brigade and 1st Cavalry Division, including Zeigler’s former unit, according to information from post officials.
Norman noted the volunteer laborers have 106 hours to get their part of the job done.
After that, the designers have 24 hours to add the finishing touches to the nearly 3,000-square-foot house.
“The more than 10,000 members of the Texas Association of Builders are honored to have the opportunity to contribute to this project and to be a part of the build team that will deliver a brand new home to someone who has sacrificed so much for his country,” Norman said Monday.
Eddie Martin, president of Tilson Home Corporation said, “It is incredibly moving and inspiring to see the courage and commitment that this young couple has shown in fighting back from their terrible tragedy.
“My hope is that this new home we are building will provide the Zeiglers with the peace and comfort they deserve and a place where their friends and family can gather to provide them with the love and support they need.”
Both Martin and Norman said the most difficult aspect of the job is coordinating all of the volunteers who come from throughout the state. But they also believe building a home for the wounded warrior and his future bride is an extremely worthwhile effort.
Doyle Simons, chairman and CEO of Temple-Inland Inc., agreed.
“We owe so much to the men and women serving in the armed forces,” he said. “While we can never fully repay them for their dedication and sacrifice, we are honored, humbled and excited to be sponsors of this wonderful project, which will give Patrick and Jessica a new home in the heart of Texas.”
The episode is expected to air on ABC in six to eight weeks.
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