Dec. 26, 2007

Virginia Guard family gets "Extreme" dream home

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard were out in force to join the Lucas family Dec. 10 when they saw their new house for the first time. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

By Staff Sgt. Mary K. Flynn
National Guard Bureau Public Affairs

ARLINGTON, Va. Spc. Michael Lucas received an extra-special homecoming during his mid-tour leave from Iraq recently when he and his family discovered they had been selected for a total-home renovation, courtesy of the popular reality-TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

The show's premise involves combining the efforts of a team of designers and hundreds of local workers and neighbors.  Together they renovate an entire home -- from furniture to landscaping -- for a deserving family nominated by friends and family -- all within seven days.

The Lucas family consists of Michael, 37, his wife Jean, 33, and boys Michael Henry, 11, and Joseph, 6. Jean studies ancestry and genealogy research and works with a therapist for Joseph, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  She's currently helping to write grants to open a sensory playground facility for autistic children.

Spc. Lucas is currently deployed to Iraq with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry, Virginia Army National Guard.  He and fellow Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion trained at Camp Shelby, Miss., from June to early August, before arriving in Kuwait in late August. In early September, the unit moved into Iraq to begin its mission, which includes providing convoy security.


More than 50 volunteers from the Virginia National Guard came out Dec. 8 to help with landscaping on the Lucas house. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)


Spc. Lucas, a lifelong history buff, had begun construction on a house on property which is the site of the Civil War's Battle of High Ridge near Rice, Va. Unfortunately, Lucas was deployed before he could finish the home, and the family moved into a rental property in Cullen, Va.

Jean home schools both of her children, and the nomination for the home makeover came through members of the home school cooperative where she is a member.  The deployed Lucas was concerned for his family's well-being, given their somewhat remote location.

"Jean and her family are such a wonderful family," said Nancy Baker, who knows the family through their home-school group. With a husband in Iraq and an autistic child who requires so much of her time and efforts, she has a lot of obstacles to overcome on a daily basis, she says.

Enter the Extreme Makeover team: After surprising the newly-reunited family with the news of their selection, they sent the Lucases off for a weeklong vacation to Disney World as went to work. Hundreds of local workers and volunteers joined Ty Pennington and the rest of the design team in a total overhaul of the property.


Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard handed out water to spectators who came out Dec. 10 to watch the "reveal" of the new house to the Lucas family. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)


National Guard Soldiers were quick to lend a helping hand. Approximately 50 Soldiers volunteered their time to help build a home for a fellow Soldier.

"I think this is such a wonderful opportunity for the Soldiers to come out and participate in helping another Soldier," said Sgt. Shaena Hall, a Soldier in Company B, 116th Brigade Troops Battalion, who drove more than three hours from her unit's location in Alexandria to help with the project. 

Hall has never met any of the Lucas family, but she said that didn't matter. "All Soldiers are family, so it's great to be able to help out a fellow Soldier."

The big reveal of the new home came on Dec. 10, when hundreds of volunteers, Soldiers, workers, neighbors and curious onlookers gathered on the property and cheered "Move that bus!" allowing the Lucas family a first glimpse of their dream home.

"It's wonderful.  It's incredible just to see all those people here and what they did this for us," said Jean.

The family also received several substantial gifts from local businesses.

"I can't say how appreciative I am of this community and how much I love these people," Spc. Lucas added. "[I appreciate] the state and the community for how much they've given me."

The Lucas family episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is tentatively scheduled to air in February or March on ABC. The program is produced by Endemol USA, a division of Endemol Holding.

After days of round-the-clock building and the help of hundreds of volunteers, the Lucas family saw their new house for the first time Dec. 10 after host Ty Pennington gave the order to "Move that bus!" (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

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