ST. GEORGE, Utah – Vietnam War veteran Arnold Breitenbach said he only wanted to commemorate his military service on this license plate. But because Breitenbach served in 1969, the Utah Tax Commission said, “no.”
Breitenbach served 12 months in the U.S. Army, the whole year of 1969.
He also received a Purple Heart as part of that service after being injured as a gunner on an armored personnel carrier. It’s something he’s proud of.
“We were going over there to protect our country,” Breitenbach said. “To fight for freedom for our country.”
Breitenbach said he’s always had a Purple Heart license plate, but came across someone who’d commemorated their service through the letters and numbers. Wanting to follow suit, he requested a personalization of CIB-69, standing for Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and the year he served.
His request was denied, deemed to offensive.
“I thought it was kind of silly,” Breitenbach said. “I really think that my explanation of the symbols of the CIB and the year wouldn’t be a problem to anybody.”
Under state code, the use of 69 on plates is prohibited because of its generally recognized sexual reference. The only exceptions are for use with a clear designation of a car model, for example CHEVY 69.
"There's different views of whether it's fair or not,” said Utah Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Charlie Roberts. “The state law is very clear on when the number 69 can be used."
Breitenbach appealed the decision, but an administrative judge upheld the rejection, saying the general interpretation of “69” outweighed the one Breitenbach had suggested.
St. George drivers Fox 13 spoke to disagree.
“You know that 69 represents that year,” said Alicia Miller. “It would be something that is significant with the Purple Heart, so I would have no problem with that.”
Breitenbach didn’t further the appeal process. He said he didn’t think it would be worth the time or money.
He did get the Purple Heart license plate, and hopes the tax commission will reconsider additional exemptions, ones that would make reference to the year 1969 acceptable.