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Hartselle soldier gets break from service in Iraq

By Tracy B. Cieniewicz
Hartselle Enquirer

More at ease in his jeans, T-shirt and baseball cap than his Army fatigues, Jantzen Frazier said the best parts of his brief visit home to Hartselle have been the food, his family, and the relief from the intense heat of the Iraqi desert.

U.S. Army Pfc. Jantzen Frazier, 19, of Hartselle has served with the 127th Aviation Support Battalion in Baghdad, Iraq since last December, where he repaired a variety of military vehicles.

Jantzen, son of Murrell and Debbie Frazier of Hartselle, arrived home Aug. 12 and is scheduled to return to service in Germany on Sept. 6.

Although he is skilled in the use of five military weapons, Jantzen said it was still a shock when he was shot at on his first day in Iraq.

“I’m kind of use to it now,” Jantzen admitted. “Mortar rounds come in at us every day.”

One thing Jantzen did not grow accustomed to was the sweltering heat of the Iraqi desert, where he said the hottest day he can remember soared to 137 degrees. During his nine-month stay in Baghdad, Jantzen said he never saw a drop of rain.

“It’s so hot there, and it’s a real dry heat,” Jantzen recalled. “The wind is hard, too, and blows the sand around like a blow dryer. All we have is eye goggles to protect us from the sandstorms. Our drinking water only stays cold for a minute or two.”

An Alabama summer was a relief for Jantzen to return home to, especially with recent mild temperatures that Jantzen said were perfect for playing a few rounds of golf with his dad and their buddies.

He and his parents also enjoyed a long weekend trip to Memphis to visit Jantzen’s girlfriend, Heather, and attend a cookout with friends.

“I miss the times like that,” Murrell admitted. “But his mom and I are very proud of Jantzen and support him and the job he does.”

His grandmothers, Margret Higginbotham of Hartselle and Betty Blackwood of Somerville, are proud of their grandson, as well.

“They’ve kept him fed with lots of homemade food since he’s been home,” Murrell said.

“I’ve really missed the food here,” Jantzen explained. “Especially Taco Bell.”

Jantzen is hoping the food will be better in Germany. He’s not scheduled to return to Iraq, a country void of the luxuries of fast food and most modern accommodations, until November 2005.

“In the time I was there, I could see things were getting better,” Jantzen recalled. “More people were getting electricity, kids were getting education opportunities, and everyone was enjoying their new freedom. It wasn’t like the media sometimes portrays. The kids really like the American soldiers and there are more people who want us there than people who don’t.”

Although his visit home seems brief to Jantzen and his family, Jantzen is glad to be back in Hartselle and on American soil.

“I think it’ll be harder to leave this time than the first time,” Jantzen said with a sigh.