Online Exclusive: Flat Daddy

In October 2010
with just two weeks notice, Edmond
resident John T., a staff sergeant in the Oklahoma National Guard, left for
training in Georgia
and then a year’s deployment in Sinai,
Egypt. While
the news was a shock to his family, they were also very proud of him for
serving his country.

The major
adjustment to life soon began. John’s wife Sherry and their three daughters,
Kylie, 13, Abrielle, 7, and Revae, 6, would carry on the best they could,
communicating often with him by phone, email and Skype. These helped keep Daddy
closer for the girls, but it wasn’t the same. Despite their busy school,
church, and activity schedules, Daddy’s place at the table remained empty.

The usually
bouncy, bubbly Abrielle was especially affected and would disappear into her
closet and have “sad time” after each exchange with her daddy by Skype. That
Daddy would miss both Christmas and her 8th birthday was almost more
than she could bear. To her it seemed his absence would last forever. Because
she was so distraught, Abby had trouble concentrating in school. She just
didn’t understand her sadness on the inside and simply didn’t know how to get
it out! 

When Edmond grandparents, Jon
and Roz Reiff, Sherry’s parents, took the girls on vacation during Fall Break,
Abby was sometimes mischievous, spreading toothpaste all over the sink, hiding
her homework, and dismantling several markers. Nothing harmful, but the pranks
seemed to offer her a little comic relief. Feeling insecure, Abrielle
frequently had difficulty going to sleep at night. In short, she desperately
missed her Daddy and ached with sadness.

Then in December
2010, the girls’ grandmothers, JoAnn and Roz, read an article in the Parade magazine about “Flat Daddy” and
decided to order one, hoping perhaps a large photo of the girls’ Daddy would
help fill the void. After filling out a request form, they paid $50, and were
placed on a waiting list. When notified they were accepted, they sent a
close-up picture of John in his army uniform.

Less than a month
later a long tube arrived in the mail labeled “Flat Daddy.”  After buying black corkboard, Jon and Roz
removed the rolled-up life-size picture of John’s head and shoulders from the
tube. While carefully removing the backing, they started from the bottom of the
sticky-backed photo, and with a yardstick slowly smoothed out the wrinkles,
continually pressing the photo upwards onto the corkboard.  When the picture was successfully secured,
Jon, armed with craft scissors, cut out around the head, ears, and arms.  “He looks just like himself!” they declared.

A week later JoAnn
and Roz asked Abby and Revae to sit down in the living room and wait because
they had a surprise for them. Squeezing their eyes shut, the girls eagerly
awaited their gift.  When the
grandmothers carried Flat Daddy in, the girls squealed and cheered! “Daddy!”
It’s Daddy!”  Joy radiated all over
Abby’s face. Her Daddy was there—at least a life-size picture of him!

Flat Daddy
followed the girls home and found himself perched between their twin beds. When
Jon and Roz took the girls to Branson during Spring Break, Flat Daddy rode
along and assumed a prominent place in an overstuffed living room chair. One
day Abrielle and Revae dressed Flat Daddy in a cap and jacket and posed for
pictures with him. Abby seemed much more content and secure with Flat Daddy
along, often hugging him.  When friend
Pam Ryan, a former Edmond
resident, came to visit, Abby introduced her to Flat Daddy and said, “This is
my Daddy!”

Flat Daddy has
saved the day for this lonely Edmond
family!  Abby no longer has “sad time” in
the closet, nor does she tell people not to mention Daddy’s name. She has
become a cheerful and bouncy girl again with Flat Daddy part of their everyday
life. Of course, the family can’t wait for their Real Daddy to come home, but
in the meantime, Flat Daddy’s presence is making their wait much more bearable.

Flat Daddy is a
registered trademark of Elaine G. Dumler, author of I’m Already Home. . . Again (Keeping Your Family Close While You’re on
Assignment or Deployed).


SFC Graphics of Toledo, Ohio
prints these enlarged life-size photos and distributes them to military
families. Many of these families with a parent serving overseas are eager to
have a Flat Daddy but are waiting for sponsors to provide them.

 To read more about Flat Daddy and to order one
for your soldier and/or to make a donation so that other soldiers’ families
might have a Flat Daddy, visit www.parade/         

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