Gold Star Plate Honour for US Heroes
An increasing number of vehicle licensing authorities in the USA are issuing plates with gold star emblems to the families of servicemen and women killed in action.
The plates have become a poignant symbol in states like Vermont , which have some of the highest casualty rates in the recent military conflicts.
The special plates have been requested by the relatives of those killed in the current operations, but they can be issued in respect of personnel who have lost their lives in earlier campaigns, including the Viet-Nam and Second World Wars.
Indeed, it was as early as 1918 that President Woodrow Wilson first proposed the idea, the gold star has come to symbolize a family's loss of a relative in the nation's wars.
Around 20 states are currently offering the gold star plates to the families of those lost in battle. Fees are minimal and generally go to related charities.
During the 20th century conflicts, the gold star symbol typically came to represent a mother's grief, but now states like Massachusetts have expanded the concept to include the wider family.
The rules vary, however: Oklahoma allows them for parents, whilst New York and Kansas still restrict them to mothers. Florida requires the deceased to have been a state resident.
Gary and Janet Merchant, whose son, Christopher, was killed while serving with the Vermont National Guard in Iraq , were instrumental in persuading the Vermont authorities to pass the legislation allowing the plates. Gary didn't know what they would look like until they were unveiled in a ceremony at the Vermont National Guard armoury last Tuesday. Each member of the Merchant family will receive gold star plates for their vehicles.
"I'm kind of excited that we managed to do this, said Gary . I can't help but feel it not only honours our boys, it honours all the fallen soldiers from way back."
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