A Flat Daddy (also Flat Mommy or Flat Soldier) is a life-sized cardboard cut-out of someone absent from home, the idea being to keep connected to family members during a deployment. Flat Daddies came in fashion after the start of the Iraq War when spouses and children were left alone after soldiers were called up for duty. By the mid-2000s (decade), thousands of Flat Daddies have been produced for families in the USA.
The Flat Daddy concept dates back to at least 2003, when Cindy Sorenson of Bismarck, North Dakota created a cutout of her husband who was deployed in Iraq with the North Dakota National Guard. The name was modeled on the 1964 children's book Flat Stanley and a program in which children mailed small cutouts of themselves. The idea was shared by Sorenson with Elaine Dumler, a motivational speaker who mentioned the idea in a book offering coping tips for families with a deploying soldier. Dumler obtained a trademark on the term "Flat Daddy", hoping to prevent anyone from profiting on the idea. Dumler filed for the trademark on October 16, 2006, for use as photographs of active duty military personnel mounted on cardboard cut-outs, vinyl, and photo paper and in books in the field of military family readiness. The trademark application indicated that the term was first used in September 2003.
As of 2006, the Maine National Guard had produced 200 "Flat Daddy" and "Flat Mommy" cutouts for the families of soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Maine program was started based on information received at a National Guard conference. The state's family-support director noted the enthusiastic response to the program, stating that "If there's something we can do to make it a little easier on the families, then that's our job and our responsibility. It brings them a little bit closer and might help them somewhere down the line."
By 2007, a Toledo, Ohio firm had manufactured over 1,000 of the cutout figures. While many of the initial Flat Daddies had been produced gratis, the firm was seeking sponsors for the 50 per week that it was producing.
- Zezima, Katie (September 30, 2006). "When Soldiers Go to War, Flat Daddies Hold Their Place at Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
- "At War in Iraq and Afghanistan: Children in US Military Families". Ambulatory Pediatrics. 7: 1–2. doi:10.1016/j.ambp.2006.11.004. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
- Harasim, Paul. "Constant companion", Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 26, 2007. Accessed August 25, 2008. "Dumler said she got a trademark for 'Flat Daddy' to ensure that no one would try to profit from the concept."
- Flat Daddy, United States Patent and Trademark Office. Accessed August 25, 2008.
- MacQuarrie, Brian via The Boston Globe. "He's Flat, but He's Home; Life-size replicas comfort families of Guard members", San Francisco Chronicle, August 31, 2006. Accessed August 25, 2008.
- "Sexual Harassment Scandal Forces Florida Representative Mark Foley To Resign; Thwarted Plot To Attack Inside Green Zone; 1st Cavalry Division Deployed to Iraq; Life-Size Pictures of Soldiers Help Families Back Home; Tips on Easing Pain Of Parent Sent To War; Destructive Squirrel on Texas Campus", CNN Newsroom, September 30, 2006. Accessed August 25, 2008.
- Brickey, Homer. "Life-size 'Flat Daddy' images help soldiers' families cope: Toledo firm sends prints to relatives.", The Blade, March 9, 2007. Accessed August 25, 2008.