TOPEKA — Families who have lost loved ones in war hope to show 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, she 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 by private donations, including from him.
"All of us certainly want to honor those who have loved ones who have died in battle," he said.
But an upgrade to the state Department of Revenue's licensing computer system could delay the plate.
Carmen Alldritt, the department's director of vehicles, said with the upgrade going on, the department does not have the resources to put out any new license plates.
She suggested delaying creating the new plate until July 2012, when the new Department of Motor Vehicles computer system should be up and running. Alldritt will explain the issue to the committee in further detail next Tuesday.
Alldritt also said the department expected it would need to create several versions of the plates, to reflect different wars and theaters of operations. She estimated that could lead to about 14 different plates.
Judith Dietz, chairwoman of the Kansas Gold Star Family Committee, said instead of creating multiple different plates, the department could use decals that family members could buy for an additional $2.
Dietz's father died in 1968 while serving in Vietnam. His death had a lasting effect on her life, she told the committee.
"These memories never leave us as I know the effects of war never leave those who made it home," she said.
Dietz decided Kansas should have a plate for Gold Star families after seeing a similar license plate created in Ohio.
The Gold Star tradition began shortly after World War I with service banners, usually displayed in a 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.
The committee could work on the bill next week.