Program helps keep deployed family connected

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Samantha Krolikowski
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Deployments mean time away from loved ones, but families experiencing a deployment still have a chance to have their deployed family member with them. The Red Cross, in partnership with the Airman & Family Readiness Center, offers Flat Daddies and Mommies, which are cardboard picture cutouts of a family member deployed.

"Service members preparing for deployment can stop by the A&FRC and have their picture taken," said Keirsten Hess, service to Armed Forces director, Eastern Washington Region. "If they have a picture they'd prefer to use or if they've already deployed, they can send pictures via e-mail as well."

The program started more than four years ago, and has provided over 1300 Flat Daddies and Mommies to families. They are available to families experiencing deployment, extended TDY's, or remote tours.

"If we can simply give a family a very visible daily reminder of their loved one and 'save their place at the table,' it just helps the time go by," said Hess. "They can further build on the strength and resilience already inherent in military families."

Families are eligible for one free flat daddy per deployment. They can choose between one full-size or two minis. The cut outs are completely free of charge, thanks to support from organizations like the Officer Spouses' Club, United Way, Red Cross, Fairchild Air Force Base and the local community.

"It's a simple cardboard cutout, but it can make a big difference in how a family experiences the deployment," said Hess. "We've even heard stories of infants and toddlers better recognizing their parents after a long separation, because they became so familiar with the Flat Daddy. The Flat Daddies and Mommies help maintain connection and relationship in very tangible ways. They are a daily physical reminder of the deployed parent's place in the family."

Civilians, who are deployed in support of military operations, are eligible to receive a Flat Daddy and Mommy as long as the family resides in the greater Spokane.

"Deployments can cause a lot of changes to a family causing them to make adjustments and deviate from what is normal for them," said Dara Bender American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces coordinator. "The Flat Daddy and Flat Mommy Program is a way for the family members, whether that's a spouse, kids, or significant other, to have a tangible connection with the deployed service member while they are away. One of the best things is the program is totally free to the family! It is a fun and unique way to lessen the heartache of having someone you love be so far away."

For more information on the Flat Daddies and Mommies contact the Airmen Family Readiness center at 509-247-2246 or Keirsten Hess at 509-326-3330 x221 or