Reposted from The Capital

Gold Star families to get Maryland license plates

By E.B. FURGURSON III Staff Writer

 

 

 

 

 

 It is small consolation compared with the sacrifice, but a comforting gesture nonetheless.

 

Gov. Martin O’Malley last week unveiled a special license plate honoring Maryland servicemen who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and the families who mourn them.

 

Families of military men and women who serve in the nation’s wars are given a blue star banner to designate they have a loved one in harm’s way. If that loved one is killed, they become Gold Star families.
 

Maryland license plates abound for all sorts of military designations, Disabled Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Purple Heart winners. But until yesterday, there were no plates to honor those who are killed.
 

Now, Maryland’s Gold Star families can get a license plate to mark their loss and sacrifice.
 

The gesture might not have come if not for the persistent prodding from south county’s Gary Swanson, whose son was killed in Iraq last year.
 

Mr. O’Malley acknowledged as much in his remarks before a small gathering of about two dozen people from Maryland families who have earned a badge none of them wanted.
 

“This was not an idea that Jim (Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs James Adkins) had. Or something that one of us thought of,” the governor said on Tuesday.
 

“It was the effort of Mr. Swanson.”
 

“We would not be the strong state we are today, if it was not for generations of common Americans who have achieved uncommon things,” Mr. O’Malley said. “This recognition is the least we can offer in remembrance of these fallen soldiers’ loved ones.”
 

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, an Army colonel who served in Iraq, repeated the notion.
 

“We are a great nation … not only because of the sacrifices that men and women in uniform - soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines - over the centuries have made, but because of the important sacrifice and support of our military families,” he said.
 

The family of Staff Sgt. Christopher Swanson of Rose Haven, got the news in July 2006. Their son, a graduate of Southern High School and on his third tour of Iraq, was killed in a firefight.
 

A little over a week later a lone bugler sounded “Taps” as he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
 

Since then the family, primarily Staff Sgt. Swanson’s parents Gary and Kelly Swanson, have kept busy keeping their son’s memory alive, coping with the gaping hole in their hearts by reaching out to other service families. And the favor has been returned.
 

They started a nonprofit organization to aid soldiers and their families. Their vision is to build or buy a home near the Chesapeake Bay shore for wounded soldiers and their families who are in the process of recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
 

The Swansons also visit Walter Reed. They have welcomed soldiers to their home, including some who knew their son. One was a medic who was there when Sgt. Swanson was killed. The visits are solace to both grieving parents and soldier, Mr. Swanson said.
 

The effort to get the license plates designated for Gold Star families started last fall.
 

Working with Del. Bob Costa, R-Deale, Mr. Swanson pushed and pushed. Mr. Costa drew up legislation to get the designation for the coming session of the Maryland General Assembly.
 

But they also took the administrative route.
 

Mr. Swanson thanked the governor, lieutenant governor, Mr. Adkins, Transportation Secretary John Porcari, and Mr. Costa for their efforts at the unveiling ceremony.
 

“This is a way for us to get through all this,” he said.
 

“All of us have experienced adversity and tragedy,” he added. “It is what you do with these tragedies that define you from that moment on. We have chosen to reach out to those who have done so much - our veterans.
 

“It is OK to hate war, but you have got to love the warrior, and their families.”
 

Mr. Costa said he was glad to see the administration decide to move forward.
 

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said.
 

He is considering legislation to extend the license plate honor to grandparents of the fallen and also allow Gold Star families free access to state parks and facilities.
 

The license will be available to all Gold Star families.
 

The Department of Defense, under the authority of the U.S. Code, presents the Gold Star pin to immediate family members of service personnel who died while serving their country. Ninety Marylanders have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 

Each person who meets the requirements under federal rules, specifically the Federal Gold Star DD Form 3, is eligible to purchase a plate. The plates, available in February, may only be obtained through the Motor Vehicle Administration headquarters in Glen Burnie. The administration began taking applications on Wednesday.
 

“It is an honor we hope no other families encounter,” Mr. Swanson said. “But we will display it proudly.”
 
 

 

 

 

Reposted from The Office of the Governor - Offical Press Release

ANNAPOLIS, MD (December 18, 2007) – Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, joined by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Adkins and MVA Administrator John Kuo, today unveiled the Gold Star Family license plate to recognize and honor the service and sacrifice of those Maryland families who have been awarded the Gold Star pin by the U.S. Department of Defense. Maryland has numerous military and veteran-related license plates. Until now, there was no plate to recognize the sacrifice of Maryland’s Gold Star Families.

 

“I am honored to unveil the Gold Star license plate today to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation and their families,” said Governor O’Malley. “This license plate will give our families and our fellow citizens one more opportunity to honor those we had the privilege to call our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones. We would not be the strong state we are today, if it was not for generations of common Americans who have achieved uncommon things. This recognition is the least we can offer in remembrance of these fallen soldiers’ loved ones.”

 

To honor those Maryland families, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has partnered with the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs to design the license plate. The idea for the Gold Star Family license plate came from the family of Staff Sergeant Christopher Swanson who was killed during his third tour in Iraq in July of 2006.

 

“I have spent 23 years in uniform and served for 10 months in Iraq,” Lt. Governor Brown said. “Every day of every week during my career in public service has been driven by the articulation of duty and patriotism by Maryland’s armed service members and I’m proud of the commitment Governor O’Malley has made to Maryland’s veterans. The Gold Star License Plate is a simple, yet profound, way to honor our heroes.”

 

“For hundreds of years, Marylanders have heeded their nation’s call to duty. Today a new generation has answered the call and it is Maryland’s duty to ensure that their service and sacrifice is appreciated. This license plate is just another way to thank and honor all Maryland veterans and their families for their unselfish service,” said Secretary Adkins.

 

“The Maryland license plate offers a unique form of recognition and it is appropriate for the State to honor our nation’s fallen and their families in this special way,” said Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari. “The constant visibility of these special plates on vehicles across the state will help remind Marylanders and others that many of our sons and daughters have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.”

 

The Department of Defense, under the authority of the U.S. Code, presents the Gold Star pin to immediate family members of service personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. Ninety Marylanders have died in our most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those families who elect to display a Gold Star Family license plate, it is one more opportunity to honor their loved one. It also allows fellow Marylanders to recognize and honor these families for their almost unbearable sacrifice for the sake of our future and our freedom.

 

Gold Star plates are issued to parents, children, or spouses of members of the military who were killed in action during wartime service. Each person who meets the requirements under the Federal Gold Star DD Form 3 is eligible to purchase a plate. The plates may only be obtained through the Glen Burnie MVA Headquarters. The plate will be available February 2008. The Motor Vehicle Administration will begin taking applications on December 19, 2007.

 

From Left To Right : Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Gold Star Mother, Kelly Swanson, Gold Star Father, Gary Swanson, Governor Martin O’Malley, & Maryland Gold Star Mother’s President Carol Roddy