TOPEKA – Families who have lost loved ones in war are hoping to display their pride and sacrifice with a "Gold Star Family" license plate.
"The Gold Star Family tag would enable us to display our heritage and express our patriotism for our loss and our country," Antoinette Ortiz-Colon, told the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday in support of Senate Bill 361.
Ortiz-Colon's father Staff Sgt. John Ortiz was killed in Vietnam in 1968.
"As the 42 years have gone by, I have lived with the loss of my father but have not been able to put things to rest," she said.
The plate would allow her and others to honor their military family members killed in action, Ortiz-Colon said.
Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, is pushing for this plate this year. Similar legislation stalled last year over concerns about who would pay the $10,000 cost of designing and distributing the plates.
This year, Kelsey has proposed the fee be paid for by private donations.
"All of us certainly want to honor those who have loved ones who have died in battle," he said.
This year an upgrade to the Department of Revenue's licensing computer system could delay the plate.
A department representative said with the upgrade going on, the department did not have the resources to put out the new plate – or any new licenses plate. She suggested delaying creating the new plate until July 2012 when the new Department of Motor Vehicles computer system would be up and running.
The Gold Star tradition began shortly after World War I with service banners, usually displayed in an exterior window at the homes of parents of military personnel. The original banners would show a blue star for each child in the service and a gold star for each killed in action.The tradition was cemented in World War II, when the military grew to more than 16 million personnel and 405,000 were killed, touching almost every community in the nation.
For more, read Wednesday's Wichita Eagle.