- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

RICHMOND Most 10-year-olds whose parents tell them they are moving across the country don't care much about leaving their mark on their hometown, much less their entire state.
But Christopher Mingus of Virginia Beach is not a typical 10-year-old.
Christopher has designed a license plate for Virginia to commemorate the events of September 11 and help raise money to fight terrorism.
His plate needs General Assembly approval before it can become available, so Delegate John J. Welch, Virginia Beach Republican, has sponsored the necessary legislation. It already has passed the House of Delegates, and the Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear from the young lobbyist today.
On Monday, his family moves to Olympia, Wash., where his father Petty Officer 1st Class R. Andrew Mingus, a Navy fire controlman has been reassigned.
"I decided to do this because I think we needed some patriotism after September 11," Christopher says, sounding more relaxed and mature than most adults.
The new anti-terrorism plate is white with blue letters and numbers. Below, reads "United We Stand," and in the lower right corner is a flag.
"I came up with the idea because I thought we needed a flag that would not rip or be torn apart," Christopher says. "Sometimes, the flags on cars tear and are wind-torn. I thought, with a license plate, it would not be ruined. And I wanted to have 'United We Stand' so that we could all fight terrorism and show patriotism."
Virginia currently authorizes 180 specialty plates, including those honoring alumni from various colleges and universities, as well as veterans, breast cancer survivors and firefighters.
The standard blue-on-white Virginia plate costs $26.50, and the cost of specialty plates varies. Christopher's plate would cost $50, with $10 going toward highway repairs and construction standard on all specialty plates and $15 going toward the Rewards for Justice Fund, an anti-terrorism program administered by the U.S. State Department.
Rewards for Justice was created in 1984 with the goal of turning terrorist supporters into informants. The program offers rewards for information leading to the capture and prosecution of terrorists, whose pictures appear on leaflets, posters and even matchboxes made by program workers.
During the past 18 years, the program has doled out more than $8 million in rewards involving 22 terrorist cases.
Even if the General Assembly approves the legislation and Gov. Mark R. Warner signs it into law, Virginians won't be able to rush to their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get the plates right away.
New license plates are approved each year, but it is the responsibility of the sponsor in this case, Christopher to get 350 prepaid orders for production to begin.
DMV spokesman Brian Matt said "quite a few" newly approved plates never see production each year. He did not have specific numbers.
Christopher is not worried.
"We have gotten all the signatures we will need we have over 600," he says.
Mr. Welch said his goal is to make Christopher's plate the most popular plate in the state. For that to happen, more than 140,000 Virginians would have to sign up for the design. Mr. Welch said, given the location, it should not be a problem.
"A lot of people forget that the Pentagon is on Virginia soil, even the president forgets," he said. "We are the mother of all states. … This is good for America and good for Virginia."

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