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Minnesota Airmen honor Dover's heroes

Colonel Michael Zick, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commader recieves a brief from Technical Sgt. Steve Vernig, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, on the flag table built for the folding and ironing of the American flag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rachelle Elsea)

Col. Michael Zick, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander receives a brief from Technical Sgt. Steve Virnig, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman deployed from Minnesota, on the flag table built for the folding and ironing of the American flag on Sept. 8, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rachelle Elsea)

Colonel Michael Zick, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commader recieves a brief from Technical Sgt. Steve Vernig, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, on the flag table built for the folding and ironing of the American flag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rachelle Elsea)

Col. Michael Zick, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander receives a brief from Technical Sgt. Steve Virnig, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman deployed from Minnesota, on the flag table built for the folding and ironing of the American flag on Sept. 8, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rachelle Elsea)

Southwest Asia -- A pair of dedicated Minnesota Airmen deployed to the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, on their own initiative, built a table recently which will be used for the ironing and folding of the American flag.

The flags prepped on the table will be draped over caskets carrying fellow servicemembers home.

"I was originally asked by a chaplain at a neighboring base if I could build a table to iron and fold the American flag for soldiers making their final trip home," said Technical Sgt. Steve Virnig, 386th ECES structural craftsman, deployed from the 133rd Airlift Wing, St. Paul, Minn.

Virnig added, "He then asked if the table could be made to be folded up due to lack of space where they perform their duties. My experience as a cabinet maker and machinist helped me create the design for the table."

The job was right up his alley.

"As a structural craftsman, I have expert knowledge of building components, layout, fabrication, materials, construction, and repair," said Virnig. "I lead new construction projects, head up the remodeling of existing facilities and trouble shoot problems related to structural components. Further, I am tasked with training junior troops and ordering materials for our shop."

Also helping with the job, was Master Sgt. Kurt Huver, 386th ECES structure shop superintendent, also deployed from the 133rd Airlift Wing, who has similar experience in the field.

"I oversee the operations of a team of nine Airmen that are trained to perform functions related to welding, masonry, framing and locksmithing," said Huver. "We are tasked with an array of jobs that spans from new construction of facilities to remodels. We currently are heavily tasked with base build up."

The team quickly developed a plan, drew a rough sketch with measurements and created a material list. Then, they were off to work.

"I made the table top with rough stock red oak lumber," said Virnig. "The center pieces are made of mahogany plywood and the base is made of pine with the slide rails being made as part of the unit. The hinge is one piece with one side being slotted to accommodate it being folded over 180 degrees."

"I worked on the table by myself, until it was time to assemble and finish," he added. "Then Huver and I clear coated and painted the table, and reassembled it."

Overall, the project was a success and the sergeants were able to use their gifts.

"I am so blessed to have the ability to do all of these things with my hands," said Virnig. "I feel that just sitting around not building something would be a waste of what little time we are on this earth."

Virnig and Huver also took great value in the building of the flag table.

"It was a privilege and honor to build this table for those who deserve only the best for the sacrifice they made," said Virnig. "There is no better feeling knowing the significance of what this is being used for."

It provided me a way to give back to those that have given all, added Huver.

Since the completion of the flag table, Virnig had already has the opportunity to complete another project and is patiently awaiting the next.

"I recently made the 9/11 memorial bell display for the Fire Dept," said Virnig. "I carved an axe handle from oak, and made the axe head out of steel in order to mount a bell that will be rung for each soul lost in the 9/11 attack . As for future projects, only time will tell."

"I have not been asked for anything yet, but I never turn down a good challenge," he added.