Posters aid veterans’ families

By Jeff Hansel

Flat daddies don’t play basketball, but you might start seeing them at games.

What are flat daddies? Local kids will get life-sized posters of their active-duty parents through a new Department of Defense grant to the Southeast Minnesota Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The program encourages kids to take the giant photos along to sporting events, plays and other community activities to help local residents realize how many parents are missing because they’re on active military duty. To get some perspective, consider that Olmsted and Fillmore counties received 171 military absentee ballots for the 2008 election from soldiers and spouses living overseas.


The photos give a "visual sense that Mommy or Daddy is here with us, even though they are far away," said Kris Martinson, Red Cross volunteer and community support coordinator.

The Flat Daddies program says experts believe the cutouts are a useful psychological device, especially for children, to help cope with the stress of long absences. The Red Cross applied for the Flat Daddies grant to raise awareness and to connect with military families in the four-county region of Olmsted, Dodge, Fillmore and Wabasha. The nonprofit wants community members to support families who stay behind while soldiers serve. The organization hopes for donations, and for help connecting with military families.

"I am just so hopeful that if the public is aware of the chance to help support the troops that they will do so," Martinson said.

The exact amount of the Department of Defense grant remains uncertain, but it will be several thousand dollars, she said. The money will pay for two things: the local Flat Daddies program and postage for care packages.

"They love — really, really, really love — beef jerky," Martinson said.

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