By Sam Campbell (Leonard Wood)May 23, 2019
Sandy Crockett, artist and mother of 3rd Chemical Brigade Commander Col. Sean Crockett, sculpted an 8-inch tall figurine replica of the famous Dragon Soldier poster and donated it to the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex on Fort Leonard Wood May 17.
The figurine, which is made from polymer clay over wire and aluminum foil, depicts an African-American Soldier wearing a World War I infantryman's uniform, complete with a gas mask, M1 Garand rifle, and other historically-accurate equipment.
It is the third of three Dragon Soldier models Sandy made, the first of which was given to retired Maj. Gen. Kent Savre as a gift.
"Sean gave the first one to him, because he used this all the time in his talks," Sandy said. "When I sent Sean the picture of the finished item, his first comment was 'I want one,' so he got one for Christmas and he has it in his office."
Sean reflected on Savre's lessons and clarified the fact from fiction behind the Dragon Soldier poster.
"(Savre) would talk about the common myth (being) that the individual in that photo is a chemical Soldier," he said. "That's not the case."
"That is a World War I infantryman who has been trained by the Chemical regiment to protect themselves in a combat situation and keep taking the fight to the enemy," he added. "Regardless of the element, he can still fight."
Sandy said she requested photos of the outfit for accuracy in recreation. Fortunately for her, an exact replica was available.
"The actual uniform with all the gear on, we have it down in the (museum) vault," Sean said. "There's one lieutenant that fits in the uniform, so we brought him in and we did a photo op -- back, front, sides and him in position so she could get every possible angle."
According to Sean, she had never created a Soldier figurine before, but instead made snowmen and Santa Clauses.
"I started out making bread dough ornaments years ago," Sandy said. "I had never done sculpting. (When) I actually got into sculpting, I had cancer, thyroid cancer, and I had surgery."
The medical operations left Sandy unable to continue teaching fitness classes, as she had done so five times a week, and opened extra time for different activities.
"I got the gift for Mother's Day to take a (sculpting) seminar," she said.
After studying with her 6-foot 3-inch teacher, who made giant sculptures, she focused her direction on creating smaller figurines, due to her fond memories of her dolls when she was a child.
"Being an Air Force brat, (I was) always moving and a lot of times, my dolls were my best friends until school started," she said. "I still have some of my dolls."
Although each figurine takes about 40 to 50 hours to finish, Sandy indicated she plans to continue creating art inspired by Soldiers.
"'Welcome home' is a series I want to do of the Soldiers coming home," she said. "Everybody loves to watch these reunions. That is a magical moment."
She sculpted figures in a reunion scene for her son, Sean, previously.
"When he came back from Iraq, it's called 'Daddy's home,' and the kids are running to him and they were little," she said. "It was Christmas time, so they're all in their winter stuff. Sean is down on one knee with his arms reaching out for (a child), who's almost there."