- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

NORFOLK Gov. Mark R. Warner ceremoniously signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a commemorative USS Cole license plate.
John Clodfelter, whose son Kenneth was one of 17 sailors killed in the terrorist bombing of the destroyer, had traveled around the state to collect signatures of people willing to buy "Remember the USS Cole" specialty license plates.
The Mechanicsville man, whose 21-year-old son was a hull technician, needed 350 signatures on a petition as the first step in the process to get the General Assembly to approve a bill authorizing the plates. He collected 1,600.
"If it wasn't for the 1,600 people, today would not be possible. And for the old crew thank you," Mr. Clodfelter said, fighting back tears as he joined Mr. Warner, a Democrat, for the bill signing at the USS Cole Memorial at Norfolk Naval Station, the destroyer's home port.
The monument, a 10-foot monolith bearing the names of the dead that is encircled by 17 granite slabs, overlooks Willoughby Bay where ships leaving and returning from sea pass by.
The plates "also will serve as a commendation for those to continue to serve every day putting their lives in harm's way so we can all live in freedom," Mr. Warner said. The bill actually became law last month.
A set of two plates costs $10, or $20 for personalized plates. People living outside Virginia may buy $20 souvenir plates.
"When I see the plates being produced and they're on their first car, then I know I've done my job," Mr. Clodfelter said after the ceremony.
Mr. Clodfelter already knows what he wants his plates to read: HT2KEC, in honor of his son, Hull Technician 2nd Class Kenneth E. Clodfelter.
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.
Saved by the survivors from sinking, the $1 billion ship underwent $250 million of repairs at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. The Cole returned to its home port, Norfolk Naval Station, on April 25.
U.S. officials blame Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network for both the September 11 attacks and the Cole blast, which also injured 37 sailors.


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