Legislation recognizing contributions of ‘Cold War’ veterans signed into law

McHenry, IL. – U.S. military veterans who served during the Cold War will now be able to purchase special recognition license plates marking their service during the nearly 50-year U.S./Soviet Union “Cold War” conflict, according to State Sen. Craig Wilcox. 

“The veterans of this era served admirably and trained to be ready at a moment’s notice to go to war, which was not out of the realm of possibility given the heightened tensions at times between the United States and the then-Soviet Union,” said Sen. Wilcox (R-McHenry). 

House Bill 2088, originally introduced in the House by Rep. Daniel Swanson, was signed into law Aug. 9. It authorizes the Illinois Secretary of State to issue Cold War license plates to Illinois residents that served in the U.S. Armed Forces between August 15, 1945 and January 1, 1992. The plates have no additional fee attached. 

“While many of these veterans during this time were not directly involved in a hostile action like the Korean conflict or Vietnam, they were in an everyday training regimen in preparation for imminent danger and the possible call to fight and protect,” said Wilcox, a U.S. Air Force veteran. “The Cold War was a battle of political ideologies, sparking heated geopolitical tensions pitting the United States with our Western allies on the side of liberty against the communist tyranny of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc satellite nations.” 

For Sen. Wilcox, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel, the license plates are a simple, but well-deserved acknowledgment of the significant service of Cold War veterans that has largely gone unrecognized. 

“I came into the Air Force in the late 80s and during that time, those who were training me through Jr. ROTC and ROTC were members of that Cold War era,” said Wilcox. “They were also part of my experience and provided mentorship during my younger days as a lieutenant and captain.” [Depictions in military uniform do not imply an endorsement by the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense]

The federal government is also recognizing Cold War era veterans. Congress passed and President Trump recently signed into law The Legion Act, which seeks to formally recognize 12 “unrecognized war eras” during our history. Among those eras is the “Cold War.” The federal legislation states in part, “Although no direct large-scale military fighting occurred between the militaries of the United States and the Soviet Union, active United States military personnel served in multiple regional conflicts during the Cold War, resulting in the deaths of not fewer than 32 members of the Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives in service to the United States and not fewer than 12 additional casualties.”

The legislation also opens up membership opportunities for many veterans to join American Legion posts across the country.

Colonel Craig Wilcox spent 24 years (1989-2013) in the United States Air Force. His last post was as Commander of the 89th Airlift Support Group at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. There, he led his unit providing global command and control communications and aerial port services to the President of the United States and Air Force One.

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