TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The state of Florida says it has created a Vietnam and Korean Conflict license plate for veterans who served.
Nearly 400,000 Floridians fought in Vietnam, untold others in Korea.
Florida built a memorial to remember those who died in Vietnam three years after the wall appeared in Washington D.C., but it has taken decades for the state to make license plates available to those who served.
Vietnam was unpopular at the time and for years afterwards. An airplane mechanic in the war, Warren Sutton now owns an auto repair shop.
"When I first came home when I lived in California, I was spit upon," Sutton said.
Florida followed the nation's Capitol, constructing a memorial in 1985 to the nearly 2,000 Floridians who died or went missing. But Sutton says many of his war buddies were discarded when they got home.
"It's a lot of guys out there suffering that never had realized they had a problem," Sutton said. "They got a problem inside, but no one ever realized it."
Now, the state is taking another step forward. These custom license plates have no additional charge beyond the normal vehicle tag fee that is due on all tags, but there's a catch.
"You do have to submit documentation showing that, in fact, you did serve in these conflicts," said Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
But getting the plates has taken 60 years for Korean veterans and 40 years for those from Vietnam.
State Rep. Jimmy Patronis says that a constituent pointed out the oversight last year.
"Why they were overlooked, I have no idea," Patronis said. "But now we do have a different culture, a different view on how our service members are being treated, and that's a good thing."
Sutton now believes the change in attitude toward veterans of his era is the presence of so many people who have fought or are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The plates can be ordered at the local tax collector's office or online here. You will need proof of your service when ordering.
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