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Hassan signs bill allowing surviving spouses to keep Purple Heart plates

Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed a bill allowing New Hampshire residents to continue using Purple Heart license plates earned by their spouses after the qualifying veteran’s death.

Hassan signed the bill into law Tuesday, and it takes effect in 60 days.

“After hearing directly from Purple Heart veterans and their families, the governor felt that allowing spouses to retain a Purple Heart license plate is an appropriate tribute to those who have bravely served and sacrificed in defense of our nation,” wrote spokesman Marc Goldberg in an email yesterday.

The Purple Heart is earned by military personnel who are killed or wounded in combat. New Hampshire allows residents who have earned the medal to use special Purple Heart license plates.

Under legislation filed this year by Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester, a surviving spouse would be allowed to keep using those plates after the qualifying veteran’s death, unless he or she remarried.

The same bill passed the Senate last year but failed to make it through the House.

This year, the bill cleared the Senate on a voice
vote. But it met loud opposition in the House from some veterans who said it was inappropriate for a person who didn’t earn the Purple Heart to use a Purple Heart license plate.

“There is a very wide gulf, a very broad chasm, impossible to bridge, between those who have actually shed blood or lost their life and those who have sorrowfully suffered with the loss or a maiming or a wound of a loved one,” said Rep. John Cebrowski, a Bedford Republican, during the House’s June 5 debate. “The afflicted and the affected – while linked, while linked – are vastly different and poles apart.”

But others argued the bill would allow widows and widowers to honor their loved ones.

“The spouse doesn’t want the plate simply to say, ‘I won it. I was awarded it. I shed the blood.’ No! They want it to honor. They want it because they’re proud. They want it in reverence and respect, and to remember and continue showing people they love their fallen soldier, Marine, sailor, Coast Guardsman, any member of the service,” said Rep. Dan Dumaine, an Auburn Republican.

Two attempts to table the bill failed, and it eventually passed the House on a 188-158 vote.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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