Protected by the Best
SYCAMORE – Travis Velazquez still is coping with the loss of his friends who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who died in combat.
The 38-year-old Army and Air Force Reserves veteran, formerly of Rock Falls and now a real estate agent living in Sycamore, wanted to do something to honor his friends and also educate people on why it’s important to understand what veterans experience day to day.
So he he wrote a children’s book, “Protected by the Best.”
“As I started writing and as it came along more and more, it became more of a therapeutic way for me to release some of my emotions,” Velazquez said.
He wrote it in 2 days, and it took 6 months to get it together with pictures by illustrator Suzanne Shedosky, a former neighbor.
It’s about a boy named Travis who writes a letter to soldiers after seeing people dying in combat on TV. As they walk to drop off the letter, Travis and his father come across protesting, homeless veterans and people stepping on the U.S. flag.
The journey teaches Travis how to handle these and other circumstances he encounters now and may encounter in the future, said Velasquez, who also has a son named Travis.
The paperback is available on Amazon.
He hopes the book instills patriotism in youth, which feels is slowly falling to the wayside, but didn’t have any specific political motives in writing it, Velasquez said.
“The point of the book is not to make you a Democrat or Republican, or anti-Trump or for Trump. It’s just a way for people to realize that we are the ‘Land of the Free’ because somebody had to pay the ultimate price for that.”
Shedosky, who also used to babysit him, was more than happy to help because she has multiple family members who have served in the military, including her brother, he said.
The names photos of Velazquez’s own friends who lost their lives in combat are listed at the end of the book, which is 22 pages by design, to honor the 22 veterans who die by suicide every day, Velazquez said.
“We don’t want to forget about them.”
Velazquez left Rock Falls in1987, when he was 8, but he still has many family members in the area. He and his wife, Evangeline, have three children: Alejandra, 9, Travis, 8, and Bradley, 5.