Virginia Guard Family Gets Extreme Dream Home

By Staff Sgt. Mary Flynn, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 18, 2007 - Army National Guard 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 ABC reality television 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 autism spectrum disorder. She's currently helping to write grants to open a sensory playground facility for autistic children.

Lucas is 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.

A lifelong history buff, Lucas had begun construction on a house near Rice, Va., on the site of the Civil War's Battle of High Ridge. But he 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 added.

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 and went to work. Hundreds of local workers and volunteers joined host Ty Pennington and the rest of the design team in a total overhaul of the property.

National Guard soldiers were quick to lend a helping hand. About 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 of Company B, 116th Brigade Troops Battalion, who drove more than three hours from her unit's location in Alexandria, Va., 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 when the show staff's bus moved out of their line of sight.

"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.

(Army Staff Sgt. Mary Flynn is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

Virginia Guard Family Gets Extreme Dream Home  [ ]