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Purple Heart
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Veteran must pay extra fee for Purple Heart license plate set

A Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers wounded or killed in battle. (Rockin'Rita, FLickr)
LISTEN: Veteran has to pay for Purple Heart license plate set

David Buckner was wounded twice in Vietnam, spent 22 years as an Army medic, and, over the course of his career, twice earned the prestigious Purple Heart.

RELATED: Washington charges extra for Purple Heart honoree

But now he feels that the state is punishing him, rather than honoring him for his service.

The Thurston County resident has special Purple Heart license plates on his two vehicles, which he originally had to purchase at a cost of $40 each. However, when Buckner went to renew his license tabs, he found himself facing an extra $30 that he hadn’t counted on.

“If you have more than one set of [Purple Heart] plates, they want you to pay an extra $30 for the extra set of plates every year, when you’ve already paid for the plates initially,” Buckner explained to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. This fee is in addition to the cost of annual car tab renewal.

Christine Anthony, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Licensing, said that according to a new law passed in June 2016, veterans do not have to pay an annual specialty plate fee for their first set of Purple Heart license plates, but they must do so for any additional ones.

“Every specialty plate has a yearly specialty plate fee,” she said. There are 38 types of special plates allowed in Washington, such as 4-H, Seattle Seahawks, and Seattle University plates.

However, Buckner feels that this is discrimination against people who have already sacrificed so much for their government.

“We serve our country, we’ve been wounded in combat, and then the state turns around after you’ve had the plates for 20 years and wants to charge you another $30 a year,” he said.

Buckner said that he is not surprised that the state is finding ways to get extra money, but he is shocked and disappointed veterans are paying the price.

“That’s the state, any way that they can think of to get another buck out of you, but I don’t think they should be taking it from the veterans,” he said.

Anthony pointed out that every penny of each $30 fee collected goes to the state’s Veterans Stewardship Account, a fund that provides money for homeless veterans, war memorials, and a future veterans cemetery.

“The money is going to veterans,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly suggested Buckner was awarded a Medal of Honor. He wasn’t.

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