Fort Hood Warrior in Transition ends career with a ‘bang’ by winning gold in
Warrior Games air rifle competition
By Gloria Montgomery, WTB Public Affairs
(FORT HOOD, Texas, June 17, 2010)–Their eyes were focused on their son’s
every move: the scoot, the spike, the joy. They were watching their son,
Spec. Jantzen Frazier, a five-time Purple Heart recipient, maneuver his body
to deflect balls and pursue shots in a sporting competition designed more
for amputees than for their two-legged son.
Considering the father and son talk two, sometimes three times a day, there
was never any doubt that Merrill and Debbie Frazier would travel the 1,260
miles from Hartselle, Ala., to Colorado Springs to root for Jantzen, their
only child, as he competed in the inaugural Warrior Games, a sporting venue
created specifically for America’s wounded and injured servicemembers.
Though Jantzen had excelled in youth sports, notably Little League baseball
and basketball, this adaptation of volleyball was a virgin competition for
him because of the unusual ‘one cheek on the floor’ rule. This, he said, was
the hardest part of the competition.
“The guys missing one or both legs had a natural advantage and could just
scoot around without breaking the ‘cheek’ rule,” the Fort Hood Warrior in
Transition Soldier said, smiling.
This was Frazier’s inauguration into the Paralympics sport of sitting
volleyball. Chalk it up as one more challenge for this country boy from
Alabama, whose theme songs on his cell phone alternate between “A Country
Boy Can Survive” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Frazier was one of 100 wounded or injured Soldiers selected for Team Army in
the Warrior Games, which was co-sponsored by the U.S. Olympic committee and
the Department of Defense. The morale-boosting competition, held May 10-14
at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., was designed to promote healing and recovery and included Paralympics adaptive sports like wheelchair basketball, floor volleyball, swimming, track and field, archery and shooting. Categories were
broken down into upper body or lower body injuries, spinal cord injuries,
traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. About 100 servicemembers
from the other service branches also participated.
Although Frazier’s team was soundly defeated in the bronze medal round in
their division, the 25-year old was the top warrior in his other competitive
event, standing air rifle, winning gold in the upper body division.
With a bullet the size of a pencil eraser and a bulls eye the size of a pin
head, competitive air rifle requires precision, visual acuity and extreme
concentration. Professional competition consists of shooting 60 rounds at a
target about 3 inches in diameter from 10 meters away.
Before the competition, Frazier, along with the Army’s other shooters, spent
two weeks at Fort Benning, Ga., learning air-rifle shooting techniques and
marksmanship fundamentals with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit.
Once he conquered the nuances of the stance, rifle positioning and circular
sight, he said it felt like shooting any other rifle.
“I’m a pretty good shot,” he said, “but it was still hard.” He chuckled at
the fact that he had “smoked” his closest competition, a Marine. “Marines
are known for being good shooters, so it felt real good winning.”
“He didn’t even tell us he had won a medal,” his father said, of his Soldier
son. “We missed the medal ceremony, which was held during the volleyball
game. Someone had whisked Jantzen away, and when he returned to the gym, he
was grinning ear to ear and had a medal dangling around his neck. ”
“Oh, I just won the gold medal in shooting,” he nonchalantly shouted to his
proud parents as he scooted back onto the hardwood floor to return to
sitting volleyball competition.
Frazier, who during his two tours in Iraq manned the gunner’s spot on his
platoon’s Humvee, has had a rifle cradled under his arm since he was 7 when
he fired his dad’s 22 rifle. A home-grown Davey Crocket, he has hunted
boar, deer, squirrel and his favorite, raccoons, which his dad would
barbecue for state-wide Wild Meat BBQ cook-offs.
“Oh, it’s real good,” the elder Frazier said of barbecued raccoon. “Tastes a
little like Boston butt,” a pork cut popular in Alabama.
Three years ago, Frazier, who had wanted to join the military ever since he
could remember, might not have made it to the medal stand because, most
likely, he would have been six feet under, the victim of a fatal sniper
bullet to his head.
On Oct. 12, 2007, while on a patrol convoy in Taji in a command support unit
with the 1st Cavalry Division, Frazier was manning his Humvee’s turret when
his unit was attacked by insurgents.
Frazier was shot in the head. Seconds later, a second bullet ricocheted off
his helmet and tore into his side. The impact knocked him unconscious and
shattered several vertebras. Miraculously, his Kevlar helmet proved to be
the young Soldier’s best weapon, stopping the quarter-size bullet
millimeters from penetrating his brain.
Although he doesn’t remember much from that day — his memory muddled by one
too many concussions–the helmet the young man has tucked away in a hall
closet is his reminder of how he cheated death.
“That helmet saved my life,” the married father of two young girls said;
adding that he also has the bullet that almost ended his life.
Call it being at the right place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the
right time, Frazier had already survived numerous firefights, roadside bombs
and sniper attacks during his two tours in Iraq. He was injured twice during
his 2003-2004 tour, and at least three times during his 2006-2007 tour. But
it was the Oct. 12, 2007, attack that jerked him from the battlefield and on
to a medical evacuation flight first to Germany and then Fort Sam Houston in San
Antonio where he spent several month recovering from severe back injuries
and a swollen brain. In February 2008, he transferred to Fort Hood to what
is now the Warrior Transition Brigade.
Raised in Hartselle, Ala., a rural blip on a map about 10 miles south of
Decatur, Frazier had always wanted to serve his country. At 17, he asked his
father to sign an age waiver that would allow him to go to boot camp and
return to finish his senior year of high school. His father refused.
“He was furious at both his mother and me,” the elder Frazier said. “It
wasn’t because I didn’t want him to join, but it would have to be something
he did on his own.”
In April 2003, he turned 18 and promptly enlisted a month before his May
graduation from Hartselle High School. In June, he left for boot camp,
spending six months at Fort Jackson before he was shipped off to Germany.
Frazier is now awaiting the results of a Military Evaluation Board, which
will evaluate his injuries to determine if he can continue to serve. Because
his back injuries are so extensive, the country boy knows his life as an
Army mechanic is probably over. He still hasn’t whittled down his options,
but his parents aren’t at all worried.4 of 5
“Growing up, Jantzen was always wheeling and dealing,” his father said,
adding that he’d often come home from his job stocking grocery shelves to
find a dozen neighborhood kids, broken bikes in tow, standing in line
waiting for the tinkering Jantzen to fix them. “He was just a natural at
fixing things, and, from the time he could read, was taking things apart and
putting them back together.”
“He was just a natural at fixing things, and, from the time he could read,
was taking things apart and putting them back together,” his dad said,
Frazier loves the Army and would gladly trade all of his Purple Hearts in
for one more fight. He admits it will be difficult wearing civilian clothes
instead of his uniform and size 13 boots on his nearly six-foot frame, but more importantly, he will miss “soldiering,”
which is why the Warrior Games were so important to him. When he was in
Colorado Springs, he was back to soldiering, marrying his rifle skills to
“I was thrilled to be asked to participate because I got to do something for
the Army,” the warrior said. “The Warrior Games helped me to not think of
all the stuff I couldn’t do and instead, allowed me to focus on something I
The senior Fraziers are happy their son and his family are coming home and
will be living on a family farm not far away. Although they know their son
may never fully recover from his war injuries, they know he is well on his
way to recovery and are grateful to the Army and the Warrior Transition
Brigade for having such an impact in Jantsen’s recovery process.
“It was a humbling experience,” he said on witnessing a rebirth of Jantzen’s
competitive spirit, adding that he and his wife also were moved at watching
the other wounded and inured athletes. “I’ve never seen anything like it.
They were having the time of their life, smiling, laughing, high fiving each
other. Everyone should have an opportunity to witness this.”