By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Every time Keith Decker jumps in his truck, folks know he was in the Army. His specialty tag tells them.
"That's why I got my plate," Mr. Decker said. "I'm proud of my service."
Soon they'll know he's a Vietnam veteran. The state recently released new specialty license plates, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.
"The Vietnam War Veteran and Korean Conflict Veteran license plates shipped out to the counties last week," Jim Brodie, director of legislative and cabinet affairs, told members of the Florida Veterans Council at a recent meeting.
Mr. Decker said the Army plate was his second choice when he got it. He asked for a Vietnam veteran one and is glad to know they're now available.
"That's what I wanted," he said. "But the state didn't have it yet. I will change up now that I can get that."
According to the state department, the Combat Action Badge plate will be out by January. By May, qualifying veterans should be able to get the Air Force Cross, Combat Infantry Badge, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross and Silver Star tags. These join a number of other military and veterans specialty tags.
In addition to the new license plates, the state offers Florida Salutes Veterans, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy tags. It also has U.S. Paratroopers.
"Some of them you have to (meet criteria) to get a tag," Steve Murray, communications director at the FDVA, said. "Others, anyone can get that tag."
Jeff Bumb, senior counselor, said the county's Veterans Services will screen requests for specialty tags to ensure only those who qualify get them. He's been looking at the growing selection, and has settled on getting a U.S. Paratroopers tag.
"I think it's a great way for people to recognize their service," he said. "It shows people's pride in what they achieved and believe in."
The plates range from an extra $15 to $20. The Salutes Veterans tag raised $266,550 in fiscal year 2010-2011, according to a Florida Department of Revenue spokesperson. That money goes to the State Homes for Veterans Trust Fund. The state has seven nursing homes for veterans, including the Emory L. Bennett State Veterans' Nursing Home in Daytona Beach.
Mr. Decker said he's surprised at the amount of attention his Army tag draws. He owns a couple convenience stores.
"Folks come in saying, 'Hey, who's got the Army plate?' he said. "I say, 'I do,' and they come up to shake my hand, or tell me about their service."
He served from 1967 to 1969. Mr. Bumb said there are about 70,000 veterans living in Volusia.