LINCOLN — As a veteran, Francis “Red” Steele taught his daughter from early on to respect those who serve in the military.
As a child, Steele's daughter went to veterans parades with him and saw his involvement with American Legion Post 1 in Omaha.
As an adult, she felt her father's pride when one of her sons graduated from basic training in preparation for service with the Nebraska National Guard.
Now Steele's daughter — State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton — says she is willing to “go to the mat” for a bill to help and honor Nebraska veterans and active duty military.
The proposal would allow veterans to have their status noted on their driver's licenses and state identification cards.
It also would allow veterans and active duty military to get special Military Honor license plates. A $5 fee charged for the plates would support the state veterans cemeteries.
“It's kind of personal for me,” Dubas said. “I feel strongly about our veterans and honoring our veterans.”
Dubas is chairwoman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, which advanced the proposal last week.
The committee has designated the measure — an amended version of Legislative Bill 93 — as one of its priorities for the year.
Supporters may have to be willing to take plenty of time on the bill.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha opposes specialized license plates, arguing that license plates should be for identification only and not be state-sanctioned billboards.
Although an Army veteran himself, Chambers fought the legislation that created the current four types of military-related plates.
Nebraska has plates for Purple Heart recipients, Pearl Harbor survivors, disabled veterans and former prisoners of war.
Gregory Holloway, a Vietnam War veteran who is active in veterans groups, has a Purple Heart plate on one vehicle and a disabled veteran plate on another.
He said he likes the idea of the military honor plates.
The bill would create plates for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard, bearing the official emblem of each.
“There is a lot of pride in being in the military,” Holloway said. “You like to recognize that pride and show it.”
He said he wouldn't mind paying a $5 fee on top of the regular licensing fees, because the additional money would go to the veterans cemeteries.
The bill, as advanced from committee, would eliminate the $5 fee now charged for Purple Heart and POW license plates.
The measure would boost support for the veterans cemeteries by a net of about $54,000 per year, based on estimates by the Department of Motor Vehicles that 7,850 current and former military members would apply for the new military honor plates, out of the 142,500 veterans and 15,000 active duty military in the state.
Dubas said she is hearing from many veterans who are interested in the bill, especially the driver's license portion of it.
Many veterans don't have anything to easily prove their status, Holloway said.
Having a veteran designation on the state-issued driver's license could help veterans qualify for the discounts offered by many businesses, he said.
It could also alert law enforcement if they encounter a veteran who may have post-traumatic stress disorder. That knowledge could help authorities in deal with certain situations.
It won't help in all cases, though. Under LB 93, getting the designation would be voluntary.
The proposal sets up a system in which the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs would verify a person's veteran or active duty status for both the driver's license designation and the license plates. People would have to register with the Veterans Affairs Department to be eligible for either.
Betty Johnson, administrator of the driver and vehicle records division of the Department of Motor Vehicles, said the military requires some type of status verification for states to use the official service branch emblems.
The DMV does not require proof that applicants qualify for the four existing military plates but does require applicants to swear to the truth of the information they provide. Falsifying an application can lead to prosecution for lying on a government document.
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