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Air Force volunteers pitch in for co-worker's extreme home makeover

  • Published
  • By Ron Fry
  • Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs
A team of Air Force military members and civilians volunteered their Saturday morning, Aug. 1, to help a fellow civilian Airman who is getting a new home as part of ABC-TV's popular series, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

The commander of Air Force Materiel Command, Gen. Donald Hoffman, and Aeronautical Systems Center commander Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson led the fired-up team of about 25 Air Force people to the home of James Terpenning. Mr.Terpenning, who is wheelchair-bound, was nominated for the show by his co-workers at ASC at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Mr. Terpenning is computer specialist at ASC.

Until this past week, he lived in a modest 1,200-square-foot house with his wife, four young children and his brother, who also is confined to a wheelchair.

That house has now been demolished. "Extreme Makeover" celebrities and local construction companies are hard at work building a new home that will be unveiled Aug. 6. This episode of "Extreme Makeover" will air this fall.

"It's an honor to be here to help a deserving member of our Air Force family and also be part of a community-wide effort," said General Hudson.

The Air Force volunteers were the first to begin the demolition process. They fanned out throughout the house to remove handicap-accessible fixtures that will be recycled and donated to deserving disabled veterans. The biggest job was removing a 20-foot long, wooden wheelchair ramp that led to the front door of the house. The Air Force workers quickly detached it and hoisted it by hand into an awaiting truck while the "Extreme Makeover" cameras rolled and a large crowd of spectators cheered wildly.

Volunteers returned throughout the week to help with other tasks as framing for the house went up, the roof went on and interior work began.

The neighborhood resembled a Hollywood movie set as cameramen and sound technicians swarmed the worksite. The show's star, Ty Pennington, used his "Ty Cam" video recorder to interview Air Force people for the show.

This is not the first time the Air Force has come to the aid of James Terpenning. As a young orphan, he was airlifted from Vietnam in 1975 as part of the Air Force's Operation Babylift. He would be among an estimated 2,500 children flown to safety in the final days of the Vietnam War. He suffered from polio as a youth and was adopted by an Ohio family.

Retired Col. Sue Busler, who kicked off the effort to nominate the family for the show, called James and his wife, Shannon, "real heroes." She said the work done by the Air Force volunteers was a way to say thanks for all that the Terpennings have done for "their Air Force family."

And members of the production team share that sentiment. "The idea that the Air Force asked us to build a house for this family . there was no way we could say no after what the Air Force does for all of us," the show's executive producer, Brady Connell, told the Dayton Daily News.