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Cut-out-and-weep

Boston Globe, 30 August 2006

Maine National Guard members in Iraq and Afghanistan are never far from the thoughts of their loved ones. But now, thanks to a popular family-support program, they're even closer. Welcome to the “Flat Daddy” and “Flat Mommy” phenomenon, in which life-size cutouts of deployed service members are given by the Maine National Guard to spouses, children, and relatives back home. The Flat Daddies ride in cars, sit at the dinner table, visit the dentist, and even are brought to confession, according to their significant others on the home front.

“I prop him up in a chair, or sometimes put him on the couch and cover him up with a blanket,” said Kay Judkins of Caribou, whose husband, Jim, is a minesweeper mechanic in Afghanistan. “The cat will curl up on the blanket, and it looks kind of weird. I've tricked several people by that. They think he's home again.”

At the request of relatives, about 200 Flat Daddy and Flat Mommy photos have been enlarged and printed at the state National Guard headquarters in Augusta. The families cut out the photos, which show the Guard members from the waist up, and glue them to a $2 piece of foam board.

“It's a novel approach,” said John Goheen, spokesman for the National Guard Association of the United States, a Washington-based lobbying group. “It's to remind the kids that this guy and this woman is still part of your life, that this is what they look like, and this is how big they are.”

Judkins said the cutout has been a comfort since her husband was deployed in January. “He goes everywhere with me. Every day he comes to work with me,” said Judkins, who works in a dentist's office. “I just bought a new table from the Amish community, and he sits at the head of the table. Yes, he does.”

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