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Nifty Navy Wife Creatively Keeps Deployed Husband Included

9:29 AM, May 17, 2012   |    comments
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  • Children Sophia (1), Dylan (2) and Zachary (9) spending time with "flat daddy." Photo courtesy Tiffany Knight
  • Sophia (1) with "flat daddy." Photo courtesy Tiffany Knight
  • Sophia (1) with "flat daddy." Photo courtesy Tiffany Knight
  • Dylan (2) with "flat daddy." Photo courtesy Tiffany Knight
    

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's a dilemma faced by military families across the country: a family member is about to be deployed, but how do you keep them included in life back home? One First Coast Navy wife has found creativity is the key.

Tiffany Knight's husband Donnie is assigned to a Naval Station Mayport helicopter squadron.  When he was getting ready to deploy with the USS Nitze, she wanted to find a way to keep her husband around the house.

She found a website called flatdaddies.com. The website sells life-sized photos of deployed service members (and yes, there are flat mommies as well). Tiffany knew a "flat daddy" of Donnie would be a great way to keep him present in the household. She sent off a picture of Donnie and got the life-sized flat daddy in the mail.

Tiffany said she chose to hang it in the hallway for the kids.  One-year-old Sophia, two-year-old Dylan and nine-year-old Zachary interact with flat daddy, telling him they love him and even kiss him. It's a visual reminder every day that their dad is still there, even though he isn't physically there.

But it doesn't stop with reminding the people at home about their deployed loved one. It's also about reminding those deployed about their ones back home. Once again, creativity prevailed.

Tiffany said she sends themed care packages to her husband.  Getting her three kids to doodle on the boxes, she comes up with a different theme for each package.

One care package was themed "we're going nuts without you."  The box included different flavors of nuts. Another was "we're going bananas without you." Tiffany filled that one with an airtight, sealed jar of monkey bread (Tiffany said it was perfect when it arrived), some banana pudding and a batch of banana oatmeal cookies.

The family even found a way to keep Donnie included in a typical day. So they took a picture of everything they did in a 24-hour period from the time they woke up to the time they went to bed. When they brushed their teeth that morning, they took a picture and sent Donnie a toothbrush. Then they mowed the lawn, so they sent some grass clippings to go along with the photo.

But when Donnie heard Tiffany and a few friends were heading to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, he was a little jealous he couldn't go too. Once again, Tiffany decided to be creative.

She went back to the website and ordered a second flat daddy.  This one was not to hang in their home but to take along with her to the Derby. Her very own version of a "flat Stanley" but more of a "flat sailor."

A second Navy wife decided to fashion her own "flat husband" to take along on the road trip too. The pair of Navy wives and a friend loaded up the car and drove from Jacksonville to Kentucky.

When they got there, they were greeted by support from all the other spectators. Tiffany said people were giving both the flat sailors high fives, even posing for pictures with them.

Tiffany said her first trip to the Kentucky Derby was a memorable one. She said the mint julep was delicious.

What did Donnie's shipmates think of his wife taking a flat version of him on a road trip to Kentucky? Tiffany said some of the guys thought it was a little weird. But Donnie really liked it and in the end, that's the only person whose opinion really mattered.

Donnie's deployed for the next few months as part of an air detachment aboard the USS Nitze, working on helicopters. While he's gone, Tiffany said she is going to keep coming up with new and unique ways to keep him a part of the family's lives and to keep the family a part of his.

First Coast News

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