Families issued Gold Star plates | NevadaAppeal.com

Families issued Gold Star plates

by F.T. Norton
ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com

Outside the crush of media and onlookers, Jeff Evans of Minden quietly went about getting a specialized license plate for his car Monday at the Department of Motor Vehicles on Wright Way.

The new plate is marked with a gold star to signify the loss of his father, Staff Sgt. Norman Evans, on Nov. 24, 1970, in Vietnam. Jeff was just 2 years old then and knows about his dad only from the stories his family has told him.

But he has carried his father’s loss with him every day. And when an American service member dies in service to his country, Jeff, now a parent, said he identifies mostly with the children left behind.

He said he will proudly display the license plate and talk to anyone who asks about it.

“I’ll take any opportunity to talk about my dad,” Evans, a Douglas High coach, said with a bittersweet grin. “This is one way I can honor him.”

Monday marked the first day the DMV issued Gold Star plates to the immediate families of U.S. service member killed in the line of duty.

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Greg Bolander of Virginia City was there to get his plate, too.

His son, Staff Sgt. Bryan Bolander, 26, was on his fourth tour of duty in Baghdad when he was killed April 29, 2008, by an IED that struck his vehicle.

Bolander attended the event with his wife, Brenda, and stepson, Travis Thompson. Thompson held in his arms his 3-week-old daughter Trinity. Trinity won’t ever meet her Uncle Bryan, said Greg Bolander, but she’ll always share something with him – she was born Oct. 17, on Bryan’s birthday.

Roger Varela of Fernley said he didn’t know that the receipt of his plate would be an emotional one.

His son, Pfc. Alejandro Ray Varela, 19, was killed in Iraq on May 19, 2007.

As the DMV clerk typed his information into the computer, and Gov. Jim Gibbons looked on smiling, Varela repeatedly wiped at his eyes.

“I’m just very proud,” he said later. “This is such an honor.”

Founder of the Gold Star Families of Northern Nevada, Varela said he saw a California Gold Star plate and pushed for Nevada also to have one.

It was passed into law by the Legislature in July.

“It’s not just for my son. It’s for all of them,” said Varela. “From my heart, I feel that we’re honoring all the soldiers. All the soldiers died for their country.”

Sally Wiley of Gardnerville wore a pin on her shoulder with a photograph of Staff. Sgt. Sean Diamond. Underneath read the words, “My son. My hero.”

She also was instrumental in the passage of the bill that made the plates possible.

Diamond, 41, was killed on Feb. 15 in Iraq, just over a week before he was to return to the states.

He left behind a wife and four children. And an identical twin brother, his mother said.

“This (plate) has been a help in the sense of showing the respect and recognition and the gratitude,” she said, clutching her new plate. “It also shows how vulnerable we are.”

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