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China-made flag-holder upsets fallen soldier's family

November 09, 2011
LITTLETON – U.S. Army infantryman Justin Pellerin gave his life to his country, and his family was given a handsome glass-front triangle box to honor his sacrifice. The box – a military flag-holder included the flag that draped the Berlin native's casket, his military ID and several other military mementos – was a nice, fitting gesture, but the box was made in China. The Army said it didn't come from them, but possibly his unit.

Pellerin was killed in Afghanistan in 2009 when his truck hit a landmine. He was 21-years-old and recently married to his Concord High School sweetheart.

Today, the flag box sits on a shelf at the Littleton home of Pellerin's grandfather – Louis Chouinard – but it hardly brings comfort. "I couldn't believe it," he said, when he flipped the box over and saw the boldly printed words: Made in China. Possibly the government, Chouinard said, was doing what most consumers do, just "cheaping out."

China is the world's biggest exporter of goods, while the U.S. is the biggest importer. A trip to most stores bears this fact out; a recent report revealed that most items for sale in National Park gift shops are not made in the U.S. Legislative efforts to curb U.S. purchasing of foreign made items has been tried over the years, but there is a certain hard-headed economic reality during times of soaring debt and fiscal restraint.

Still, Chouinard isn't convinced and long has avoided non-U.S. made items. "I go out of my way to buy stuff made in the U.S.," he said, and it isn't easy. As the proprietor of an antique clock sales and repair business, which is steps away from his house on Saranac Street in Littleton, he constantly by-passes cheaper Chinese-made elements needed to fix old clocks. They also make replica antique clocks that cost between $150 to $200, while the authentic ones sell for between $500 to $600.

There have been efforts to buy local and it makes a difference, he said.

"If everyone," Chouinard said," thought that way we'd solve every problem in the country."

A recent New Yorker Magazine said, "Americans spend $700 billion a year more on foreign goods than the rest of the world spends on U.S. goods." This is known as a trade deficit. If this money were directed toward U.S. products, the article asked, what would the impact be? One answer came from Robert Z. Aliber, of Hanover, a retired professor of International Economics and Finance at the Booth Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago. He predicted such an infusion of business activity would result in "close to full employment" in the U.S.

While the flag-holder box was made in China, it was imported by a company called Structural Industrial, in Hicksville, N.Y. A call to the company revealed that they manufacture various items for the craft-store chain, Michael's Arts and Crafts. They do not have any contracts with any of the branches of the U.S. military. Michael's Concord store said they do not fold or prepare flag boxes, only sell them. Possibly, then the box was purchased at a Michael's store by the military or a person associated with them.

Paul D. Prince, Army Public Affairs Specialist said, "The United States Army does not purchase flag boxes for flags presented to the Families of our fallen heroes during memorial ceremonies. These boxes are typically purchased as a good gesture by the Soldier's unit, friends or by the family."

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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