Veteran discovers the true power of a children’s book
BY SUSIE OUDERKIRK
Las Cruces Bulletin
Stephen Evans, a U.S.
Navy veteran whose active duty tour included 22 countries, realized the true power of a book this summer. Evans is the first and only American to have been to the island of Olhuvelifushi (Ol-hu-vel-ee-fu-shee) lo cated in the Maldives, population 663. During this time, he also became the author of a new children’s book, “The Bee that Sneezed.”
In 2015, Evans volunteered on Olhuvelifushi, teaching and coaching at the local school. He also worked extensively with inhabitants of the island community on various public works projects.
This year he returned to the island to deliver to his former students a limited-run children’s book titled “Maldivian Stephen,” which featured pictures from his trip the previous year and was, essentially, a brief story about everything that “Maldivian Stephen” likes about the Maldives.
Evans’ purpose in writing it was to give the children a book written in English that had relatable material.
A joint force operation
Evans had no idea the impact the book would have on the children. He also had no idea about its impact on the island community as a whole. Least of all, he did not expect the amount of personal joy he would feel when hearing and seeing the children’s reactions while reading it.
“I cried reading a card one of the students made me,” Evans said. “I had no idea that I would be so inspirational to these kids” Evans returned from the Maldives with a newfound passion and purpose to bring his stories to life.
“I really started pushing and fighting to find a way to bring my stories to life. I wrote tons of agents and illustrators and heard nothing back from anybody until one day I wrote a very talented artist in Texas and told him the story. He wrote back and said it’s not the kind of thing he really does but he might know a guy and connected me with Mic Ru, another talented artist, that has done military comics.”
Ru, a United States Army veteran whose talents and credits cover a wide spectrum from book illustration to artisan pottery, met up with Evans in Las Cruces, “through a crazy chain of events.” The two veterans sat down and talked. “We spent four hours in Dunkin Donuts and decided to partner up,” Evans said.
Prior to teaming up with Evans, Ru served tours in Kosovo as well as Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. After the military, he pursued his Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design at New Mexico State University. After graduating, he worked in higher education devoting time to helping servicemembers transition from the military lifestyle into the civilian sector with a primary focus in transitioning through college life. He is the author and illustrator of “Dog Tags Comics” and “Christmas Town.”
The duo knew they had established a new “joint force operation,” of sorts. With militarystyle drive and zeal, it took them only one week to establish 2nd Tour Publishing, a 100 percent veteran-owned and operated publishing company. Within 45 days, they released their first children’s book.
“The Bee that Sneezed isn’t just for children,” Ru said. “Sure it’s a picture book, but I think everyone can relate to it.
Everyone has something special inside them.”
A different kind of shock and awe
After leaving the Navy in 2005, Evans graduated from New Mexico State University with a degree in Hotel Restaurant Tourism Management. But, “It’s my dream to travel the world writing and delivering children’s books to schools and communities I volunteer at,” Evans said. “I want and will find a way to do this for a living.”
World travel may have to come in fits and starts for now. Evans is currently a chef for the University of Missouri Athletics department in Columbia, MO, and feeds 1000 student football players every day during the fall semester.
“Even now as I look back on the journey I am still in shock and awe,” Evans said.
“The Bee that Sneezed” will be available on Amazon in September. 2nd Tour Publishing is on track to release three more children’s books by the end of the year. Titles will include “The Lizard in a Blizzard,” “The Rat who loved Math” and “The Duck without a Quack.”
“This is our 2nd Tour of service,” Evans said.
“We have hung up our boots and uniforms and pulled out pens, pencils, and paint brushes. Everybody has a story and this is how we creatively tell and share ours. Our logo includes the flag we have all stood behind and saluted so when you see it in or on our work you know we wear it with honor. It represents who we once were and who we are now.”
Evans can be reached at http:// www. 2ndtourpublishing.
com/ and The Bee That Sneezed has a link on Amazon under the title.
The cover of ‘The Bee That Sneezed’ by Stephen Evans.