COQUILLE — This was 5-year-old Levi Hoyle’s first Christmas without Daddy.
Andrew Hoyle, a master sergeant in the Air Force, is in Afghanistan.
“He’s having a harder time,” said Levi’s mother, Brandy Hoyle. “You can tell. Little boys, they miss their daddies.”
So, since Daddy can’t come home, Brandy Hoyle improvised.
She ordered a life-size cutout of her husband from a website called ‘Flat Daddy” that prints photos of deployed parents to help their children cope with the long separations. She hoped “Flat Andy” would arrive by Christmas.
He came Dec. 1.
“We take him everywhere,” Brandy Hoyle said, watching Levi pick up the cutout of his father and dance around the living room. “He looks a little rough. He’s a little bent and scraped.”
“Flat Andy” — which pictures Andy Hoyle from the waist up — has joined Levi and his mom at family gatherings and outings, even bowling, where he sat in the corner, startling Brandy Hoyle every time she turned around.
When the family is home, “Flat Andy” sits in the front window wearing a Santa hat.
“He is getting so well known as ‘Flat Andy,’” Brandy Hoyle said.
But Andy Hoyle was well known in Coquille before making his debut as “Flat Andy.” Levi is a kindergartner in Lincoln Elementary School, and Hoyle coached little league baseball and other sports.
After he was deployed to Afghanistan in the fall, students at Lincoln Elementary School began sending Hoyle and his troops care packages.
The latest one was filled with handmade cards, Christmas ornaments and a Christmas tree made out of construction paper.
That tree now adorns a door in Hoyle’s duty station.
“It helped with the whole building, getting all the letters from the kids,” Brandy Hoyle said. “They were all homesick and it made them feel really loved.”
In a Facebook message, Andy Hoyle told The World of Coos Bay: “I am very thankful for Mrs. March’s and Mrs. Jones’ classes for their support that they have given me while I am deployed. I have coached many of them in sports so I have relationships with those kids and to receive their pictures and cards in the mail is very comforting.”
Levi and his mom try to Skype with Hoyle every day. Hoyle is in the Air Force police in addition to being in charge of communications at his station.
Brandy Hoyle feels lucky. Because of Andy Hoyle’s job, she can usually talk to him every day, unless his Internet goes out.
Of course, “Flat Andy” joined the family for the Christmas morning church service, and all other holiday festivities.
“He’s ‘Flat Santa,’” Levi said, holding the cutout in front of him with both hands, a grin on his face. “Flat Andy” — a Santa hat on his head — looked eye-to-eye with Levi.
“I’m bigger than him now,” Levi said.