Three years ago Department of Idaho Paid-Up-For-Life Legionnaire Steve North wanted new license plates to go with his new car. A Vietnam War U.S. Navy veteran and first vice commander of Post 113 in Meridian, North decided to go with the state-offered U.S. Navy plates.
He was not impressed with what he got. So he decided to try to improve what the Idaho Department of Transportation had to offer its military veterans. What he said was originally something “personal” became a cause, one that resulted in a big improvement to veteran-specific license plates.
Getting his Navy plates three years ago, North noticed that “Idaho just had a blue and white logo. That was it. I put it on (my car), and it was OK.”
But not completely satisfied, North began doing some research to see how to get a full-colored logo on the state plates. “In part of my research I realized we’re the only state out of the 50 that did not have a colored plate,” he said.
North started the process with making phone calls to the Idaho Department of Transportation but ran into various bureaucratic levels. There were issues with getting permission from the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and specific designs that needed to be followed.
North’s frustration lasted another year, but then he connected with fellow Post 113 member James Holtzclaw, who also happened to be a representative in the Idaho Legislature who serves on the Transportation and Defense Committee.
“I talked to (Holtzclaw), and he made a couple of phone calls and sent out a couple of emails,” North said. “All of the sudden, (the Department of Transportation) said ‘yeah, we can get you fixed up right now.’”
North helped facilitate the Department of Transportation getting the proper logos and permissions from the U.S. Armed Forces. “Once that was gone, we got them over to (Idaho Correctional Industries) where they do them, and it took about six or seven weeks and (the plates) started coming out,” North said. “The very first plate that came off (in early July) was mine: a personalized Vietnam veteran plate. The second plate was for my post commander (Matt Wrobel). He got Army plates.”
The new plates feature the option for the logo of any of the five branches of the military, as well as service branch-specific plates for veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
New applicants for plates will receive the new plates, while those currently with the previous version of the veteran plate can convert theirs into the new version for a small fee.
“This was personal,” North said. “I thought the (original) plate was ugly. I had a new car, and I wanted to put a nice, colored plate on it. Why should we be the only state that has to go with an ugly plate?
“It was personal, but then it turned into a project. And I said ‘I’m going to see it through.’ It’s nice to know that one person can still make a difference. With the right help and a lot of patience, anything is possible.”