HELENA – Lt. Governor John Bohlinger, Attorney General Steve Bullock, Brig. General John Walsh and Rep. Franke Wilmer took part in a ceremony in the State Capitol in Helena on Thursday to unveil the Gold Star Family license plates newly available to those who have lost a family member in war.
“These special license plates are another way to recognize those who have served in uniform and given the ultimate sacrifice,” Lt. Governor Bohlinger said. “Montanans’ patriotism runs thick, and each time we see a Gold Star Plate on a Montana highway we will recognize and respect the sacrifice given by soldier and family for country.”
At Thursday’s ceremony, Bullock presented a set of the new plates personalized with “HERO,” to Ron Koontz, who created the Montana Fallen Soldier Memorial. Koontz’s step-son, Army Sgt. Scott Dykman, was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 20, 2006.
“Ron Koontz plans to take this Memorial to other communities as a tribute to the 36 Montanans who have died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bullock said. “By bringing the Memorial to their communities, Ron will make sure that the sacrifices made by other Gold Star Families throughout the state are recognized and remembered – as they should be.”
“The men and women we honor today gave up everything for our country, for our freedom, for us. We owe a great debt of gratitude to each and every one of these heroes who left the safety of civilian life to die on foreign soil. The desire of these brave individuals to serve their country will forever be appreciated,” General Walsh said. “Our goal must be to never let the people of Montana forget the sacrifices made for our freedom and to take care of the families of our fallen heroes now and into the future.”
The 2009 Legislature authorized the Gold Star Family plates through HB 373, introduced by Rep. Wilmer of Bozeman.
“I was honored to carry this bill in the 2009 Legislature,” Rep. Wilmer said. “Gold Star license plates remind us all of the sacrifices made not only by Montanans in military service, but the families they leave behind.”