- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

RICHMOND John Clodfelter never thought honoring his son would take this much work.

Mr. Clodfelter, whose son, Kenneth, was one of 17 sailors killed when the USS Cole was bombed, has been pushing for a specialty license plate in memory of the victims.

He traveled around the state to collect the necessary signatures from supporters he needed 350 and got 1,600 and successfully lobbied the General Assembly. In May, Gov. Mark R. Warner signed the bill authorizing the plates.

Then things slowed down.

Mr. Clodfelter, who served in the Army in Vietnam and then was in the Air Force, needs to collect 350 prepaid applications that the Department of Motor Vehicles requires. He is still 176 applications away from his goal.

"I just thought naturally, that once the governor signs it everyone would come forward, but they're not," Mr. Clodfelter said this week.

A few of the victims' relatives and shipmates have applied for the license plate, but many others have not, he said.

"Maybe people are just kind of thinking, '350 is not a problem,' when in fact it is a problem," he said.

Rarely do specialty license plates get approved and then not get enough prepaid applications to get produced, said Brian Matt, a DMV spokesman. He said the DMV doesn't keep track of how many plates don't get produced.

"That does happen, from time to time, but it's not common," he said.

Mr. Clodfelter has three years to collect the necessary applications, Mr. Matt said. After they're approved, there must be at least 100 active registrations a year for the specialty plates to stay alive.

This weekend, Mr. Clodfelter will travel to the Navy Exchange at the Norfolk Naval Base the Cole's home port to collect more paid applications.

"It's payday weekend for the Navy," said Mr. Clodfelter, who has a daughter in the Navy and a son in the Marines.

He did the same last weekend at a fire station in Mechanicsville, sitting at a table beside color photographs of the Cole.

"I want to make certain we remember what happened," Mr. Clodfelter said. "Because if we remember our past I hope to God we won't repeat it. Because I don't want another family to go through this."

The side of the Cole was ripped open when terrorists pulled an explosive-laden skiff alongside the destroyer as it refueled in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000. Hull Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Clodfelter, 21, was killed along with 16 others.

U.S. officials blame Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network for the September 11 attacks and the Cole blast, which also injured 37 sailors.

The Cole license plates feature the destroyer's coat of arms, the date of the attack and the words "Remember the USS Cole."

They cost $10 a year or $20 for personalized tags plus the annual $30.50 registration fee.

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