RALEIGH — There was a time when Bob King didnt want to tell just anybody that he had spent two years as a Naval aviator stationed at Da Nang Air Base during the Vietnam War.
But the anti-war sentiment of the 1970s long ago gave way to a sense of appreciation for those who have been drafted or volunteered for military service. Now veterans enjoy discounts on everything from airfare to admission to the N.C. Zoo as thanks for their sacrifice.
The only catch has been that retailers, restaurateurs and ticket-sellers usually want proof of veteran status, which not all veterans have at their fingertips.
On Friday, demonstrating veteran status became as simple as showing a North Carolina drivers license or state identification card.
Veterans who have been honorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. military can now get a VETERAN designation on their license or state-issued ID by showing their DD-214 discharge at a DMV license office. The new designation will help King in two ways: he can use it when he shops to qualify for discounts where theyre offered, and he can ask his customers to show it when they want to get 10 percent off items at his ACE Hardware store at Seaboard Station in Raleigh.
Its really just a way of thanking veterans for their service, said King, who received one of the first new licenses during a presentation Friday afternoon in a corner of a World War I exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History.
State Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata got one too, along with Motor Vehicles Commissioner Kelly Thomas, both of whom served in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.
What looks like a simple change the addition of one word, VETERAN, in blue letters on the front and back of a license took three years and an act of the state legislature. Veterans groups had pushed for the designation as a way to simplify veterans lives.
In order to prove they served in the military, some veterans get unofficial IDs from online sources; carry military retirement cards, issued at military bases for going to commissaries and attending functions on post; or carry copies of their discharge papers folded up in their wallets.
The new special designation is only the second one available on N.C. drivers licenses; the other denotes an organ donor.
Thomas said he would like to see other options added, to further reduce the number of cards and certifications people have to keep with them. Concealed-carry permits, hunting and fishing permits and others could be included, he said.
The new designation can be added to a veterans license at their next renewal at no charge. A veteran who wants to get a license with the designation before renewal time can do so for the regular cost of a duplicate license.