Amanda Stapp and her husband, Jason, are helping a friend plant a rose bush in the garden. The newlyweds smile in the midday sunshine, wearing matching do-rags.
This is typically a "husband duty," as Amanda calls it, but Jason quietly sits to the side as his wife clears the spot for the plant. She retrieves the tools from the garage, digs a hole, stakes the rose and waters the garden.
When she accidentally sprays him with the hose, she picks him up, wipes him off and sets him down out of the way. Later, she takes a picture of him next to the bush so he'll know he was here.
Jason, a captain in the Army National Guard, is serving a 400-day deployment in Kosovo. He left just two months after their wedding on Valentine's Day. His stand-in - a foam-core torso dubbed "Flat Jason," created with the help of www.flatdaddies.com - is a companion for Amanda on the adventures they would normally have together.
She writes a blog - www.ayeartogetherapart.blogspot.com - so he can see what they are up to back in Columbia. She takes him to the farmers market, church on Sunday, bowling with friends, even the recent Willie Nelson concert at Jesse Hall.
Inevitably there are stares and questions. "Carrying him around really opens up the communication lines," Amanda says. "People will stop and talk, and they forget that we have military stationed all over the world, not just Iraq and Afghanistan."
On Fridays, Amanda reaches for a red, white and blue paper chain hanging from her bedroom door. She rips off a link, knowing he is one week closer to being home. Only 42 more to go.
- 072008 021A jr Flat Jason.JPG
- Columbia Daily Tribune 2008
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