Terrific Idea

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Flat Daddies. Life sized photos of soldiers from the waist up for families of deployed soldiers. The Maine National Guard is giving one of them to every soldier's family who asks for one. Other units around the country are recommending the photos, only the Maine guard is making it available this way.

HERMON, Me. — It was the first day of school, and distance not withstanding, 9-year-old Baylee Smith wanted to take a picture with her father, Mark, who is stationed with a National Guard unit in Afghanistan. Real daddy was not available, but Sergeant Smith’s doppelgänger was.

“Where’s Flat Daddy?” an excited Baylee asked as her stepmother, Jennifer Smith, pulled a large cardboard picture of Sergeant Smith, in his uniform, out of her Chevy Blazer and propped him on the bumper. The two, along with Ms. Smith’s young sons, Alec and Derek, posed for a picture with their Flat Daddy, who promptly fell down.

“Stop it Dad, that’s not funny. It’s not a joke,” Baylee said with a laugh.

The Maine National Guard is giving life-size from-the-waist-up pictures of soldiers to the families of deployed guard members. Guard officials and families say the cutouts, known as Flat Daddies or Flat Soldiers, connect families with a relative who is thousands of miles away. The Flat Daddies are toted everywhere from soccer practice to coffee shops to weddings.

“The response has been unbelievable,” said Sgt. First Class Barbara Claudel, director of the Maine National Guard’s family unit. “The families just miss people so much when they’re gone that they try to bring their soldier everywhere.”

The Maine National Guard has given out more than 200 Flat Soldiers since January. While other guard units are recommending Flat Soldiers, and families around the country are using them, officials here say Maine’s National Guard is the only one giving one to each family that asks.

Flat Daddies have been used by military families since at least 2003, when Cindy Sorenson of Bismarck, N.D., ordered a life-size photo of her former husband, Capt. Dave Bruschwein, on a piece of foam board when he was stationed in Iraq with the North Dakota National Guard.

This is a great idea for the families of deployed soldiers, especially when there are children, I think. Those who wait also serve. I'll be forwarding this the the Family Readiness Group for the US Army Reserve.

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One Response to Terrific Idea

  1. Great post. Tears to my eyes.

    You’ll like this, too:

    The Soldiers

    There they go, off to war,
    Leaving loved ones, whose hearts are sore.
    Children weep in their mothers’ keep,
    As they hear their fathers’ leaving feet.
    Wives and mothers cannot speak,
    Watching them leave makes them feel weak.
    But, they know they must be strong,
    For they might hear the bells toll,
    Dong, dong, dong, dong,
    And sincerely hope that they are wrong,
    That their beloveds, whose love they’ve won,
    Will return to them when all is done.

    –Amy Allison (12 years old)

    from the WSJ’s “A Day of Poetry for the War”

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