For Andrea Smith, not having her deployed Marine sergeant husband home gets a bit harder around the holidays.
“Not having him home with us in general is hard, but around the holidays I find myself missing him so much more,” she tells PEOPLE.
Andrea’s husband, Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith, will be on duty overseas during the holidays, while Andrea and their 3-year-old daughter celebrate Christmas with one another at home. So, she decided to include her husband in the family’s Christmas card — as if he were there in the flesh.
“We decided to come up with something that not only brings some holiday cheer to those going through a similar situation as us,” Andrea tells PEOPLE. “But also to share the awareness that there are still so many military families missing their loved ones during this holiday season.”
She adds: “I just wanted to let them know they aren’t going through this alone.”
In the sweet card, Smith is shown sitting on the floor of a Target store appearing to drink coffee while little Charlotte stands on top of a loaded shopping cart. As Charlotte appears to balance, Andrew is shown in his uniform, poised and ready to catch the toddler should she fall.
“He was amazed by the creativity,” Andrea says of her husband, noting that she emailed the photo to him.
Andrea shared the photo on her Facebook page, writing, “Deployments are HARD.”
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The post quickly gained traction and has been shared hundreds of times.
Andrea says that little Charlotte doesn’t quite understand the attention the card has garnered. But every time the toddler sees the art, she says, “Wow! Mommy that’s us with daddy.”
“When we created this card, it was just so we could give a little lighter, happier feel to a crappy situation, but still have something to send to our family and friends,” Andrea says. “I never expected the outpouring of kindness, prayers, and love from everyone — including strangers!”