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I recently received a medal from the State of Missouri thanking me for my bravery and dedication in serving our country during the Vietnam War. Well, it didn’t take much bravery to down steins of pilsener in German gasthauses, which is what I did during my military service from 69 to 72. Still, I could have gone to Vietnam. By joining the army at 18, I put my butt on the line for Uncle Sam. A mere pawn on a chessboard.
Now, I want a license plate to reflect this service. There’s already a Vietnam Veteran plate but to those of us who were in the service during the Vietnam era, 64 to 75, but didn’t go to Vietnam, that plate would be seen as misleading. A plate that says “Vietnam-Era Veteran” would do. A call to the Missouri Department of Revenue shed light on the procedure. The clerk on the phone said that anyone wanting to inaugurate a license plate should round up 200 people also wanting such a plate and these 200 would pay 25 dollars each to offset expenses in striking the new plate. Who’s got time for that? There are about 40 choices on Form 4601, the application for personalized military plates. Selections include “Former POW,” “Pearl Harbor Survivor,” and “Combat Medic.” Vietnam-era vets deserve a plate of their own. Hopefully, the State will pony up for this plate which would distinguish us — who could have gone to Vietnam but for whatever reason, mainly fate, did not — from those combatants who did go.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
A journalist and photographer since 1982, Wm. Stage has plumbed the life stories of thousands of people. He has taught photojournalism at Saint Louis University's School for Professional Studies [1990-96] and he is an alumnus of the Photojournalism Workshop, offered by University of Missouri - Columbia's School of Journalism and held in a different Missouri town every year since 1946. He is the author of six non-fiction books including Have A Weird Day: Reflections and Ruminations on the St. Louis Experience. He lives with his dog, Jack, in The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis.