William Kelley sat in a blue chair, asked if his hair looked OK and smiled at the camera. It took about 45 seconds to make the veteran identification card that the 59-year-old Vietnam veteran can now show at any business that offers military discounts.
The Kern County Veterans Service Department is now providing IDs to veterans that can be used as proof of honorable service in the United States Armed Forces. Veterans will no longer need to carry a copy of military discharge papers to provide proof of service.
"A lot of businesses stopped taking DD-214 because it doesn't show a picture so this ID is going to be very convenient for me because I can just show this card wherever I know they offer a military discount," Kelley said.
DD-214 is the discharge papers that show honorable service and it's paperwork many veterans carry to get a discount at local businesses.
Carrying around this paperwork and running the risk of losing or damaging it is a reason why Dick Taylor, director of the Kern County Veterans Service Department, came up with the idea of providing an ID.
"We checked with a few veteran groups and told them our idea and they thought it was great so we moved along with it and it was all made possible by a donation from Rio Tinto," Taylor said.
Rio Tinto is a global leader in industrial mineral supply and science.
The estimated cost of the ID system, which includes the software, printer, 2,000 blank cards and ink is about $4,500. There is no charge to the veteran.
To receive the card, veterans must go to the Veterans Service office at 1120 Golden State Ave. and provide a copy of their DD-214 and a photo ID. They will complete a short application form and briefly discuss benefits for which they may be eligible. An appointment isn't necessary.
On one side of the card is a picture of the veteran along with their name and the branch of the military in which they served. On the other side is the logo of Rio Tinto, the Kern County seal, the branches of the military and a message that states each veteran has been certified by the department.
The card not only is an easier way to provide identification, but it also has opened the doors for veterans to learn about programs from which they might benefit.
"This allows them to visit our office and once we have them here we talk to them about the many resources available to them that unfortunately many didn't know existed," Taylor said.
As of Wednesday morning, Taylor said, they have created and given out a couple hundred cards. The response has been overwhelming at times. He hoped for but didn't expect so many veterans to come by the office to get an ID.
"There are over 50,000 veterans residing in Kern County so if they all come in, we might have to order more cards," Taylor said, laughing.