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New vet plates unveiled

Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe Bill Hoehn (from left), Commander of the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 41, the Frozen Chosin, joins fellow members Paul Steen and George Zimmerman as Steen accepts the first issue of the Korean Defense Service license plate from Sen. Jim Vickerman on Monday afternoon.

STORDEN -- A Storden man and member of the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 41, The Frozen Chosin of Mankato, received the first Korean Defense Service license plates during a presentation Monday afternoon in Worthington.

Paul Steen, who served in an ammunition unit near the demilitarized zone in Korea from 1961 to 1962, led the campaign in Minnesota to make the plates available to veterans who served during post-war Korea from July 28, 1954, to present. Steen received the first two sets of plates made, and others may now apply for them through their county's license center.

Sen. Jim Vickerman, D-Tracy, introduced legislation earlier this year to create the Korean Defense Service license plate. It is different from the Korean War Veteran plate in that only those veterans who earned the Korean Defense Service award are eligible. Thousands of Minnesota veterans are believed to qualify for the special plates.

The legislature approved the plates in part of the much larger transportation bill in May, though the first plates were printed just a few weeks ago.

Eight other states have adopted legislation to make the special plates available since 2002, when then-President George W. Bush signed legislation regarding the Korea Defense Service medal.

"This is a plate recognizing soldiers from Minnesota for their dedicated service," said Steen.

The Korean War extended from May 1950 to July 27, 1953, when a Peace Agreement was signed between the United States, North Korea and China. There was never a peace treaty signed between North Korea and South Korea, although a non-aggression treaty was signed in 1991.

Since the peace agreement was signed, nearly 1,300 American, 2,300 Republic of Korea and 44 Canadian military members have been killed in action. Today, an estimated 28,500 soldiers are serving in Korea, said Steen.

Bill Hoehn, Commander of the Frozen Chosin, of Good Thunder, said it is a great honor to have the plates available in Minnesota.

"Many, many people have been there, and now they can have the honor of having a veteran service plate," said Hoehn.

"It is such a great, great thing -- an accomplishment," Steen added. "I'm happy as a lark."

Sen. Jim Vickerman, who presented the plates to Steen on Monday, said the legislation he introduced for the special plates was the last action he spearheaded to benefit the veterans of Minnesota. He is retiring at the end of his term this year.

"I've passed a lot of license plates for veterans," said Vickerman, encouraging Steen to show his new plates with pride. Steen planned to put the first set of plates on his truck, and the second set on his car.

Steen said the new license plates will call attention to the soldiers of Minnesota.

"We must not forget ... the ones that gave all," he said.

Todd Dibble, Cottonwood County Veterans Service Officer, said veterans who served in Korea since July 28, 1953, must have qualified for the Korean Defense Service award to receive the special license plates. The award information is typically on a soldier's discharge papers. VSOs can work with the veterans on updating their discharge papers to get the campaign medal, he added.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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