SOUTHINGTON – Living out of modified shipping containers at Al Asad Air Force Base in Iraq, Steven Frauenheim anticipated a spartan Christmas last year.
His dad knew it was his favorite holiday and with the help of local businesses, the local American Legion and St. Dominic church, sent over a shipment of decorations and food.
“The town of Southington blew me away. There were Christmas cards being sent, there were packages being sent from people that I didn’t even know,” Frauenheim said. “It makes me speechless sometimes.”
The 2012 Southington High School graduate joined the Air Force in 2014. He was deployed to Iraq from September until February. While stationed at Al Asad air base in Anbar province, he worked as a mechanic for a search and rescue squadron.
The squadron is part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. efforts to defeat the Islamic State. Frauenheim’s squadron, if called upon, would send a C-130 plane on medical evacuation missions. No calls for evacuations came during Frauenheim’s deployment but the squadron needed to be ready nonetheless.
His job of keeping tools clean and in working order was complicated by the desert conditions. It was also important to the squadron’s readiness since spare tools or other equipment was a month to six months away.
Frauenheim lived in a storage container modified with a door, window and air conditioner. There was little to do in the Iraqi desert while not on duty.
“There was no anything,” he said. “You woke up and did your job.”
Frauenheim joined the military shortly after graduating from high school. Initially his father Jim Frauenheim wasn’t too happy.
“He came home and said, ‘Dad, I enlisted. I hope you don’t kill me,’” Jim Frauenheim said. “He was 19, I couldn’t do anything about it.”
After seeing an increased confidence and maturity in his son since joining, Jim Frauenheim has come to appreciate his son’s decision.
During deployment, Jim Frauenheim found himself worrying about his son and feeling his absence particularly during holidays. Before Christmas, Steven Frauenheim told his father that his unit had nothing for Christmas.
Jim Frauenheim said the project to send Christmas decorations and treats to his son “took the edge off” his worry. He got help from Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and the American Legion for the items that he shipped over.
“We got trees, wreaths, inflatables, garland, ornaments, everything,” Jim Frauenheim said. “Anything I could get I would send over to him.”
The family’s church, St. Dominic on Flanders Road, also held a Christmas card writing campaign. They sent about 150 cards.
“I thought he would get about 20 cards,” Jim Frauenheim said.
During Steven Frauenheim’s deployment, President Donald Trump visited the Al Asad air base.
Steven Frauenheim was recognized for relocating a disposal point for hazardous materials. He also accompanied the squadron’s C-130 back to the United States, an honor given for performance.
Steven Frauenheim said he probably won’t be deployed to Iraq again but plans to remain in the Air Force. He’s studying to become a nurse and hopes to get a commission as an Air Force nurse.
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