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Woman receives first Ky. Gold Star child license plate

May 20, 2018 GMT

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. — What’s in a license plate? For one woman, it’s raising awareness about Gold Star children and honoring their parents who died while serving the country in the United States Armed Forces.

This past Thursday, Cindy Stonebraker, an advertising employee for the Kentucky New Era Media Group, received the first Kentucky Gold Star Sons & Daughters license plate.

Along with the red Gold Star Daughter label, Stonebraker’s plate number is MIA68. She chose the number in honor of her father, Lt. Col. Kenneth Stonebraker, whom she lost on Oct. 28, 1968.

According to New Era archives, her father left Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base to navigate an unarmed aerial reconnaissance mission during the Vietnam War and never returned. He was officially declared dead in 1975 following the fall of South Vietnam.

For Stonebraker, making sure POW/MIAs and Gold Star Families are recognized and not forgotten is her mission.

The journey to creating the license plate for Gold Star children began a few years ago while she was volunteering at Survivor Outreach Services on Fort Campbell. She met two teens who were getting license plates for their first cars. Both were children of fallen soldiers; however, only one was able to get the license plate to recognize it.

“The boy who lived in Tennessee got the Gold Star Family plate on his car, but the boy who lived in Kentucky didn’t qualify for it,” Stonebraker recalled.

Before last fall, only siblings, parents and spouses of fallen military veterans in Kentucky qualified for the Gold Star license plate.

“The children deserve to be able to honor their parents,” she said.

With the help of Heather French Henry, deputy commissioner at the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, and Mark Grant, National Guard Survivor Outreach Services coordinator, Stonebraker was able to get legislators to sponsor Kentucky House Bill 209, extending the Gold Star plate eligibility to children of fallen heroes.

The bill passed unanimously, and Gov. Matt Bevin hosted a ceremonial signing, which Stonebraker attended on Aug. 26. She applied for her plate Jan. 1.

“I would not have been able to get that accomplished without Heather and Mark,” she said. “Of all the things that I’ve been involved in, this one is probably the most meaningful because it doesn’t just affect me. It affects all those children who have lost a parent fighting for our country and gives them the ability to honor them and bring awareness.”

Any Kentucky child of a fallen military hero, including POW/MIAs, can apply for the Gold Star Sons & Daughters license plate. The eligibility applies to a child by blood, half-blood, adoption or a stepchild, according to the Kentucky Veterans Affairs website.

For instructions on how to apply for the specialty plate, visit https://veterans.ky.gov/otherprograms/Pages/goldstar.aspx.