- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

RICHMOND Kenneth Clodfelter's habit of bending his hat and keeping chewing tobacco in his back pocket earned him the nickname of "Cooter" among his shipmates on the USS Cole.
Soon, his parents' pickup truck will sport a new specialty license plate with that name honoring his memory and that of 16 other sailors who died when the ship was bombed in Yemen in the fall of 2000, his father, John Clodfelter, said.
As of yesterday , John Clodfelter had collected the necessary 350 prepaid applications to get the new "Remember the USS Cole" specialty license plates rolling, he said.
The family's other car, a station wagon, will feature a plate that reads HT2KEC, for Hull Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter.
A spokeswoman at the Department of Motor Vehicles said it will take about eight weeks from when the 350 prepaid applications are presented to the DMV for the plates to hit the roads.
"It feels pretty cool," Mr. Clodfelter said. "But keep sending them in, just in case. I don't want to take any risks."
Getting the plates has not been a smooth ride for Mr. Clodfelter, who served in the Army in Vietnam and then was in the Air Force.
It was easy at first.
Mr. Clodfelter, whose two other children also are in the military, 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, Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner signed the bill authorizing the plates.
Then things slowed down. Not all those who signed the petition sent in their prepaid applications.
A week ago, Mr. Clodfelter was still 176 prepaid applications away from his goal. But reports that people were not signing up for the plates, coupled with Mr. Clodfelter's idea to set up shop at the Navy Exchange at the Norfolk Naval Base last weekend, finally yielded the necessary applications.
"A lot of Kenneth's shipmates came down to see me on Sunday, and we talked," Mr. Clodfelter said. "It was real good to see them."
Mr. Clodfelter said his family is the only one whose relative was killed on the Cole to order the plate.
"It could be that it brings too many memories back for them," Mr. Clodfelter said.
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.
The Cole license plates feature the destroyer's coat of arms, the date of the attack and the words "Remember the USS Cole."


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