Support – barely – for ‘We Support Our Troops’ plate


Mainers were able to purchase enough "We Support Our Troops" vehicle license plates to keep it from being retired.

 Mainers have purchased enough “We Support Our Troops” license plates – just by a hair – to guarantee the plate will be around for the foreseeable future. That is good for Maine, Mainers in uniform, their families, and veterans. 

According to a story today in the Portland Press Herald, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said sales of the plate – which shows a yellow ribbon over an image of the state to the left of the plate number and “We Support Our Troops” over a emerald forest background across the bottom of the plate – needed to hit the 4,000 annual sales mark or the plate would be retired. The plate hit 4,017 as of Monday, according to the story by Press Herald staffer Beth Quimby.  However, the sales have not been enough to assure the plate’s long-term viability, according to Quimby’s story.  

For those outside of Maine, the standard plate carries an image of the state bird, a chickadee; I believe it is perched on the Maine state flower, the white pine cone and tassel. Two popular specialty plates include one with an image of a lobster, which is on 25,511 Maine vehicles, and the agriculture plate, which was launched the same year as the “We Support Our Troops” was launched and is on 13,250 vehicles, according to the story.Dunlap a couple of months ago warned that if sales did not pick up the plate could be retired. Military groups and some businesses got behind the sales effort. 

And why not. There are 900 or so members of the Maine National Guard – including a guy I went to high school with – who will be shipping out to Afghanistan and Iraq after the first of the year. 

A portion of the sales fee – $10 of the total $55 fee for the plate – goes to supporting families of Maine troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. So far $40,000 has been raised. “Yellow ribbon license plates play an indispensable role in supporting the military,” Capt. Shanon Cotta, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard, said in the Press Herald story. 

There seems to be a bipartisan effort in the state to lower the threshold to 3,500 plates rather than the 4,000 limit. The lawmaker who first proposed the plate, a Democrat, has been marketing the plate to some groups – in some cases to a membership that had not known of the plate – and a Republican is working to have fellow state lawmakers lower the arbitrary 4,000 level. 

I suppose I can understand the reluctance of some Maine motorists to get the specialty plate. The specialty plate fee is $20 more than for the standard chickadee plate. A tough economy has been even tougher on small states such as Maine, so an extra $20 means more than it would some other places. And some people – for some unknown, warped reason – still equate supporting troops with supporting the war they have been sent to fight. It is not. Others might not get the plate for fear of retaliation from war protesters, the same people who equate supporting troops with supporting the war. 

The plate is good because it tells the men and women who wear the uniform that they are supported in a clear and open way. And each time they see a plate, perhaps they recall that part of the fee goes to supporting their families why they are serving the country. That is good for the morale of the troops, their families, veterans who might not have received the same support in another era, and to a public weary after years of war. 

I am not the type to put a magnetic “ribbon” on my car. I am a reserved person. (A “reserved” Mainer may be a redundancy.) But I might consider getting the plate if I wasn’t from away. 

Today is the Marine Corps birthday. Happy birthday! 

Today is also the day the nation mourns those killed at Fort Hood, Texas. A nation grieves and shares in the loss. 

And tomorrow, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. This would be a good week for a Maine motorist to purchase a “We Support Our Troops” plate, not to support the war, but to support the soldiers, seamen, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who serve. 


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