OCEAN CITY — A new policy adding an armed forces veteran’s designation on Maryland driver’s licenses went into effect this week and an Ocean City resident was likely the first in the state to acquire the honor.
Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the addition of a veteran’s designation on the state’s driver’s license for those who are serving or have served in the past. Among other things, the designation creates a viable database of veterans in the state and allows those who are eligible to display their newly adorned Maryland driver’s licenses to take advantage of benefits and other discounts offered to veterans.
The law officially went into effect on Jan. 1, and early Wednesday morning, Ocean City resident and most recent Past Commander of American Legion Post 166 Sarge Garlitz arrived at the MVA offices in Salisbury with the appropriate paper work in hand.
“I was up at the DMV first thing this morning and got in line with my paperwork,” said Garlitz. “I got my new license with the veteran’s designation on the back around 8:45 a.m. right when they opened for business and they told me they thought I was probably the first in the state to get it.”
It remains possible another veteran at a different MVA office somewhere around the state edged out Garlitz by a few minutes, but if the past commander of the American Legion post in Ocean City was the first, it was fitting and appropriate. Garlitz has been a strong advocate for all veteran issues that have gone through the General Assembly in recent years including the legislation adding the veteran’s designation to driver’s licenses.
A similar bill was introduced in 2011 but failed to pass as the session expired. Introduced again last year by Senator Jim Mathias and cross-filed by Delegate Norman Conway in the House, the legislation sailed through with unanimous votes in both chambers. Through the debate, Garlitz was front and center and testified on behalf of veterans.
“Sarge was there first thing this morning and although I’m not entirely certain, I think he was the very first to get his veteran’s designation on his driver’s license,” Mathias said. “If he wasn’t, he was definitely a close second. It’s fitting if he was the first because he was so instrumental in helping us get this passed and so instrumental in many of the other things we’ve been able to do on behalf of the veterans in this state.”
The veteran’s designation will also allow veterans who acquire the designation easier access to benefits, discounts and other opportunities offered to them.
“If you go the Lowe’s, for example, they offer discounts for veterans, but most veterans aren’t walking around with their photo ID’s or honorable discharge papers,” said Garlitz. “The same goes for a lot of other places.”
To get the designation, veterans need to provide to the DMV the appropriate paperwork including an honorable discharge certificate, or DD214, or a letter from the Personnel Center in St. Louis confirming veteran status.
Garlitz praised the local representatives in Annapolis for getting the bill passed.
“Jim Mathias and Norm Conway really did a great job for us on this bill,” he said. “They were able to get it through with no opposition whatsoever this time and our local veterans really appreciate what they did with this. As a veteran, this is a huge step for us.”
Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and also the highest ranking elected official in the nation to have served a tour in Iraq, added, “I would like to thank Senator Mathias and Delegate Conway for their leadership on this effort to help us better serve those who have bravely served our country.”