Cardboard Soldiers Help Families Cope

It has been more than three years since the U.S. military sent troops to the Middle East. There are still hundreds of thousands of service members deployed there — leaving their families missing them terribly.

Jennifer Bailey's husband, Craig, is a member of the Maine National Guard serving at Kuwait's camp Navistar, and he likely won't be home until next summer.

Thanks to a popular family-support program run by the Maine National Guard, he is never far from his family's thoughts. The program supplies life-size cutouts of deployed service members to relatives back home.

"As you know couples do the announcements here and I wouldn't be a couple without Craig, our flat daddy," Jennifer Bailey told The Early Show's Hannah Storm. "I'm so glad he's here, and he had a face lift. He looks really nice today."
There are about 200 flat daddies and mommies in Maine, and they do just about everything with their families. Craig Bailey's flat daddy attends church regularly and, on the back of flat daddy, Jennifer keeps a log of everywhere he's been. They bring him to events that the real Craig Bailey would attend if he were at home, like his son's football games.

"It was actually fun," Nate told Storm. "Well, the game, we actually lost, and he just reminds me of him and when I see him it makes me feel good inside."

The cardboard version of Bailey also sits with the family at the dinner table, something that Jennifer Bailey said "freaks out" visitors.

When the real Craig Bailey heard his counterpart would be on The Early Show, Jennifer Bailey stuck his e-mail response on the back of flat daddy.

"He wrote: I'm going to be famous. Don't let it go to my flat daddy's head," she said. "It's not a substitute for Craig, but the kids feel like, 'At least something's here that reminds me of dad,' and it makes me feel like he's still included in part of our family."

Bailey said that Craig's flat daddy also serves as a reminder to others of what her family sacrifices daily for their country.

"This is my guy," she said, "my hero."

Craig Bailey, who often communicates with his family via Web cam, joined them live via satellite from Kuwait on the The Early Show.

"Well, I'm real happy that they made the adventure and the tour down to New York, and were willing to do this," he said to his wife, son and daughter Abby. "I am very proud of them."

Bailey said that the flat daddy program is "just a visible sign for the public and also a reminder to my family that this is what I'm doing."

"It's very comforting that they can see me and don't forget what I look like, even though we do use Web cam," he said.
  • Caitlin Johnson

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