Military deployment is never easy for the families left behind, but now there is one tool that helps the young kids deal with the missing parent.
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The American Red Cross, with the help of a grant from Wal-Mart and Operation Hug-A-Hero, is providing more than 1,000 "Daddy Dolls" to children of deployed parents.
The 12-inch dolls contain a photo of the deployed parent. For military families at Camp Pendleton, it is helping their young children who miss their father or mother.
Some of the children said it is the simple things they miss.
"He plays with me in the park," said 4-year-old Miguel Salisbury.
"I'm Batman and my daddy... he's Green Lantern," said Graysen Crites, who was referring to the kinds of games he would play with his father. Graysen's father is on his second combat deployment.
Dealing with long months away is a reality for military families.
"You just learn how to cope with it," said Jenni Crites, who takes care of her three children while her husband is overseas. "It's never easier."
The most difficult part of deployment, however, is answering questions from her young kids.
"That's where it's the hardest
is watching your children wonder why, 'Where's Daddy, how long he's going to be," Crites said.
Even though the real father is gone, the children now have a replica dad in the form of a Daddy Doll. The American Red Cross provided the dolls, which has a picture of the deployed family member in uniform and the words "Love You" on the bottom.
The military wives say it is better than a regular photo and is a simple concept that is getting big results.
"I think the doll is great because it's mobile," said Angela Salisbury. "He can carry it around and show it off at school."
Emily Godjikian says her daughter Erin loves the doll and even feeds it when her dad gets "hungry."
"She can feed him Twizzlers," Godjikian said.
The Red Cross said they would not be able to provide the dolls without some help.
"We don't have the funds and we need the community support. Thats really what enables us to do what we do," said Charlie Fleischman, who is with the Armed Services Department of the American Red Cross.
To learn more about Operation Hug-A-Hero visit http://www.operationhugahero.org
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