AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas Veterans welcomed home an Austin police lieutenant over the weekend who has been serving his country overseas.
Chief Petty Officer Paul Christ recently returned from an eight month mission to the Persian Gulf and Africa.
To celebrate the occasion, a BBQ cook-off team fired up the pit outside the Round Rock Tavern and served up plates full of sausage, brisket, beans and potato salad.
Shane Hill, 42, founded the team called The Burn Unit about a year ago. Friends jokingly came up with the name while sitting in his garage.
“He’s always coming up with some sort of crazy idea about what his next project is going to be,” said Shane’s wife Rachael. “And that was even before the accident.”
The team name makes a lot more sense after hearing where Shane was four years ago.
“My eyebrows were gone, my hair was gone,” he said scrolling through photos on his cell phone.
They show second and third degree burns covering Shane’s hands, face, neck and back. The state employee was in his first floor office in the Echelon Building — on the phone with his son’s school — when Joe Stack flew his small plane into the north side of the complex.
He was 20 feet away from the point of impact.
“I was seated by the windows and started to walk back away from the windows and the room exploded,” he said. “It was immediate fire everywhere and it shot me across the room…I hit the ground and I knew that I was on fire.”
Shane said he walked into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. He could smell gasoline so he quickly walked outside.
This is the first time Shane has spoken publicly about the tragedy. His main goal is to share the mission behind his new side gig barbecuing on the weekends. It is a mission Shane’s 11-year-old son understands.
“We help people who have been burned in any situation and try to raise money and have fun,” said Shane’s son, who shares the same name.
All of the meat for Saturday’s welcome home party at The Tavern was donated. The cook off raised $1,900 in donations. It is money that will be saved to help other burn victims down the road.
In addition to competing in cook off competitions, the team looks for others way to help people in need. They cooked Thanksgiving dinner for families affected by the Halloween flooding. During Christmas, they collected and delivered gifts to patients at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where Shane spent nearly a week after Echelon Building attack.
The Burn Unit has also grown since it started. More than 20 of Shane’s friends and family show up to any given event to pitch in. Mike Tovar is a regular who lives across the street from Shane.
“Us helping [burn victims] really gets me right in the heart,” Tovar said.
While every person who helps out says they do it to give back, Shane’s wife believes it is also healing her husband.
“He needed this,” said Rachael. “I think he needed this more than anybody.”