JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – He serves as a military working dog scheduler at the Air Force Security Forces Center here by day, but by night he writes and illustrates books for children. Through his stories, he hopes to bring a little light to what many see as a troubled world.
Master Sgt. Daniel Crook’s most recent book, Henry’s Hero, was published at the end of January, just before COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic. He saw reading as a way to effect positive change.
“During the early stages of the pandemic, when many across the globe were isolated, we wanted to encourage children to stay at home and help limit exposure and the spread of the virus,” Crook said. “We decided to consolidate our first ten books into one digital download and put it out for free for a limited time. The results were interesting.”
The book was downloaded 793 times across nine different countries. Henry’s Hero follows the story of a young boy, Henry, whose assignment at school is to tell the class who his personal hero is. It becomes a tribute to the men and women in uniform who risk their lives and sacrifice their comforts, forgoing the spotlight, to protect their country and others.
The title also has a subtle message of suicide prevention in the veteran community, which gives parents the opportunity to discuss the topic with their children.
This book is unique in that it was written not just for kids, but also for adults -- specifically those who have served in the military, Crook said.
“I hope Henry’s Hero helps achieve cross-talk between parents and children,” he said. “I believe if a member is at their most vulnerable state and is facing a difficult decision, the memory of their child and this specific discussion will resurface and the member will choose to seek help instead.”
Mental health is an important topic for Crook, who struggles with anxiety and depression himself and whose son was diagnosed with the learning disorder dyslexia. Both issues served as catalysts for his career as a writer.
He likes to use his creative work to bring awareness to other pertinent topics as well, including healthy eating, patience, bullying, self-worth, loss and grieving, gender barriers and racial bias. As a bonus, Crook gives away autographed books, a story-inspired cube toy and treats from his wife’s local San Antonio bakery to children recovering in the hospital during holiday seasons.
Henry’s Hero has been downloaded about 800 times, which Crook admits is not a lot in the world of digital publishing. However, the senior NCO didn’t get in to writing books for the money, but for a bigger purpose, he said.
“I write the books to help others,” he said. “Life is all about perspective. I see the number 793 and believe each of those readers were searching for the specific book for a reason and either found the help, solitude or enjoyment they were searching for.”
Currently Henry’s Hero, A Pine Cone Home and Hanalo’s Heroes Present...UNITY, are available on bookstore web sites.