- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) — A small, family-owned business is engaged in the somber manufacturing job of producing “honor covers” — the containers used to bring fallen troops home.

In a converted bakery in downtown Portsmouth, C&L; Containers workers stand along a 60-foot assembly line producing wooden frames the dimensions of a twin bed. Into the trays, the workers fold sheets of cardboard printed with the American flag and the note, “Handle with Extreme Care.”

Since September, the Army has placed two orders with the manufacturer for 600 so-called air trays.

At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, service members will assemble the air-tray kits into boxes to cover and carry the caskets of military personal making their final airline trip home.

“You look outside of your airplane and see this container, you know it’s a fallen soldier,” said Lori Eanes, president of the six-employee company. “People should realize that sacrifice.”

The five-year-old business makes and sells 2,400 air trays annually to funeral homes for the transportation of human remains. The trays allow the caskets to be tied down easily into an airplane and adds a layer of protection from other cargo.

The Army wanted a special, visible way to easily identify containers on commercial flights, said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, spokesman for Army Human Resources Command.

The covers are printed with a casket-size flag on top to signal honor guards to immediately meet and properly handle the remains, he said.

Col. Arata said the military wants to recognize the sacrifices.

“It’s the visibility we want,” he said.

The covers cost $75 to $124 each, depending on the size, Miss Eanes said. The two orders have totaled $57,000. That’s slightly higher than civilian orders because of costs for designing and printing, she said.

Company employees said they have learned to block out the nature of their work.

Although Joseph Ivey, 39, likes the work, making hundreds of military covers has reinforced his views about the war in Iraq.

“Too many Americans have died,” he said.

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