'Extreme Makeover' Builds Home for Fallen Soldier's Family
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 20, 2005 ABC's hit TV program "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" this weekend will feature the show's design team building and furnishing a new home for the family of a soldier killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The family of Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa, a soldier who died during the opening days of the Iraqi war, recently took ownership of a new $500,000 house north of Flagstaff, Ariz., that resulted from the effort.
A team from the Extreme Makeover program designed the sprawling home and furnished it in a southwestern motif. A two-hour season finale, to air May 22, will feature the construction of the home for Terry and Percy Piestewa, Lori's parents, and her two children.
The program staff also arranged the construction of a center for Native American veterans in Tuba City, Ariz, Piestewa's hometown.
Former Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch nominated Lori's family to receive the home, according to Diane Korman, coordinating producer for the Extreme Makeover program.
Lynch and Piestewa served together in the 507th Maintenance Company and were part of a convoy navigating through southern Iraq when it took a wrong turn and got ambushed by Iraqi troops in March 2003. Piestewa died of injuries received in the skirmish; Lynch, also severely injured, was taken as a prisoner of war and later was rescued by special operations forces.
Korman said the staff "was touched" when Lynch contacted them and described her best friend and "the sacrifices Lori made, not only for her country, but also for her family."
Piestewa had dreamed of saving money to build her family a new home near Flagstaff, but never lived to see it through, Korman said Lynch told her. "It touched our hearts and souls," Korman said. "We just couldn't say no."
Army Maj. Ray Garcia, who notified the Piestewa family of their daughter's death and then served as their casualty assistance officer, assembled 21 fellow Arizona National Guard members in mid-April to help the Extreme Makeover staff complete final preparations before giving the Piestewa family the keys to their new house.
"This couldn't have happened to a better family," Garcia said. "It's heartwarming."
The Extreme Makeover staff involved in the effort "have big hearts" and appear committed to their efforts, he said. "You can tell it's not just a job. It's meaningful to them," he said.
Korman said that in helping the Piestewa family, the Extreme Makeover staff hoped to send a message of support to all members of the military. "As we honor them, we honor all veterans who have served in all wars," she said.