AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage signed legislation on Tuesday creating a special “Gold Star” license plate for family members of military personnel who died while serving the country.
The special registration plates, which are expected to be released by the end of the summer, will be available to parents, grandparents, spouses, children and siblings of military personnel who were killed while serving as part of combat operations, while participating in peacekeeping missions or during a terrorist attack.
The plate features a rendering of the Gold Star lapel button given to surviving family members by the federal government. The Gold Star on the license plate is set against a backdrop of the American flag.
Maine is the only state that does not offer Gold Star families a special license plate, according to LePage’s office. Qualified family members who request Gold Star plates will not be charged a fee similar to those levied for vanity plates.
After learning that a similar bill to create an honorary license plate died due to lack of funding in 2009, Ogunquit resident John Mixon made it a personal mission to raise enough money to pay for the plates without having to use taxpayer dollars.
Mixon, a Vietnam veteran who organizes an annual Run for the Fallen race, said he was pleased that the Legislature rallied behind the bill, LD 1529, to create the special registration plate.
“I’m proud they passed it unanimously,” Mixon said Tuesday morning during a ceremony in the governor’s cabinet room. Several family members of slain military personnel were also in attendance, although none spoke during the brief signing ceremony.
In remarks afterward, LePage said Tuesday was one of the proudest moments of his young administration, ranking alongside passage of a major health insurance reform bill.
“I think this bill is an important recognition that the people who go to war, who make the ultimate sacrifice, we are indebted to them. All too often, we forget that,” said LePage, who contributed $1,000 to the license plate fund with his wife, Ann.
Those Gold Star family members who do not drive or own a motor vehicle can receive a special single plate through the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.
A special fundraiser will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. June 29 at Prime Restaurant in Ogunquit. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Gold Star license plate fund, Run for the Fallen and a scholarship fund to support the children of service members who have died.