Military families live the most difficult lives. On top of all the stress of everyday life, they're also forced to live with constant worry as their loved ones are deployed. Their struggle is especially hard around Christmas, when all you want to do is spend time with your family.
For Andrea Smith, she knew her husband, Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith, wouldn't be home for the holidays, but that doesn't make it any easier. Andrea and the couple's three-year-old daughter, Charlotte, would be home by themselves this year.
“Not having him home with us in general is hard, but around the holidays I find myself missing him so much more,” she told PEOPLE.
For their Christmas this year, the Smiths had two options: they could either not send one out, or they could have one with Andrew missing. But Andrea didn't like either of those options, so she came up with a third.
“We decided to come up with something that not only brings some holiday cheer to those going through a similar situation as us,” Andrea said. “But also to share the awareness that there are still so many military families missing their loved ones during this holiday season. I just wanted to let them know they aren’t going through this alone.”
Andrea enlisted the help of one of her friends to create a Christmas card that would bring the whole family together, even though they were oceans apart.
Andrea Smith shared her family's Christmas card on Facebook, and it instantly went viral.
The card shows Andrea and Charlotte at Target, where mommy is exhausted and daughter is playing. But, as with any dad, Andrew is there to catch his daughter in case she falls.
"Deployments are HARD," Andrea wrote. "I struggle A LOT and some days I want to throw in the towel and beg the Marine Corps to return my husband and her daddy to us, but we all know that's not how this lifestyle works."
"But regardless of this hard situation, I think it’s important to know that no matter the distance between us, we will always be together in our hearts, and daddy is never too far away to be watching out for his little girl,” she continued.
Andrea also points out that even though her daughter may LOOK like she's about to fall, there's no risk.
"If you know me personally, you know I’m probably the biggest helicopter mom out there, so for anyone worrying about our daughters safety (this image is a composite image)," she wrote.
“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 said. “I never expected the outpouring of kindness, prayers, and love from everyone — including strangers!”
Andrew was emailed the picture while deployed, and Andrea says her husband loved it.
“He was amazed by the creativity,” she said.