Warning: This NYT article may flatten your heart.
update: of course, I realize now that not everyone has a NYT account, and with no account, no article. So here’s an excerpt just to get the gist across:
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 doppelganger was.
Jennifer Smith taking a photo of Derek, left, Baylee, and Alec with a cutout of their father, Master Sgt. Mark Smith, on duty in Afghanistan.
“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.