Action 9: Sister of veteran denied Gold Star tag to honor brother



TITUSVILLE, Fla. - Action 9 is working to help a Titusville woman who couldn't believe the state refused to sell her a specialty tag to honor her brother who died in Vietnam.

WFTV's Todd Ulrich found most states allow all family members, not just a parent or spouse, to buy the special license plate. He took the case to Florida lawmakers who now promise change.

About 44 years ago, Army Sgt. Arlie Spencer was killed in a Vietnam firefight. His sisters and brothers have kept his memory alive, which is very important for his sister, Sheila Spencer.

“To know him was to love him.  People still talk about him," she sad.

Several months ago, Spencer found out about the Gold Star tag, a specialty Florida plate for families of fallen soldiers.

“This tag is just one more thing to honor the people who died for us,” said Spencer.

But at the tag office, her Gold Star application was denied. The legislation that approved it only allowed tags for parents or spouses of veterans who died, not brothers and sisters.

“I'm devastated, and I think it should be changed.  Make it right," she said.

The awards, pictures and letters are just some of what the family has to remember and honor their brother.  They feel a Gold Star tag would let them do that in public.

Arlie Spencer's parents have died, and his spouse remarried long ago. Only his siblings can pay tribute now and to be denied is difficult.

“Which goes against everything the Gold Star family organization is about, which is about every family member,” said Spencer.

Action 9 found the Gold Star tag is available to extended families in most states. Ulrich took Spencer’s case to state Sen. Thad Altman, who quickly proposed an amendment to change that.

“We want Florida to be known for honoring its veterans. The best way to do that is to honor their memory and stand by their families,” said Altman.

 If approved, extended families could buy the tag and it could even be free.

“It's more than just a tag, it's my brother's memory,” said Spencer.

Congress created the Gold Star program to honor veterans' families with a special pin after World War II.

Florida had allowed one free tag per family, then a standard charge for additional tags.