GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- "I have always enjoyed making up stories for my children," said Army Capt. Richard E. Crocker. A certified registered nurse anesthetist from Albuquerque, assigned to the 14th Combat Support Hospital, Crocker turned his story time with his children into a book while serving in a forward surgical team in Afghanistan.
Written and illustrated by Crocker, The Awfully Short Zebra, is a children's story that evolved over a decade of raising a family and serving in the Army. "I had always wanted to sit down and write and illustrate the story," he said, "but the fast pace of raising four kids prevented that from happening."
He said the story is about "friendship, making mistakes and forgiveness." As a father, Soldier, and CRNA, he explained that his service in the field of military medicine has reinforced the value of these characteristics. "Obviously raising children, I have had many opportunities to make mistakes along the way. I try to teach my kids that to err is human, but when we do, we need to make amends and ask for forgiveness," he said.
In the story, a rabbit named Abbott wishes to fit into a group of zebras who lead a seemingly carefree life, and has to learn lessons about responsibility, friendship, and forgiveness. "I think one of the best traits I can instill in my children is that of humbling oneself, accepting responsibility, and doing your part to make things right," he said. Crocker says he has decided to give all proceeds from sales of the book to a charity his family has participated with for two years called "Feed My Starving Children," a nonprofit organization that packages meals with volunteers to send worldwide. The father, Soldier, and CRNA is currently writing a second book which he hopes to finish before his return home.