OGDEN -- A chance encounter in a parking lot has led to an opportunity for Weber County sheriff's deputies to wear special badges proclaiming they are veterans of the United States military.
Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther said he was in the parking lot of Symbol Arts in South Ogden late last year when he happened to see Nick Lopez, a member of the Salt Lake City Fire Department. Lopez, like Lowther, served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Being fellow Marines they started talking, and Lopez showed Lowther the special veterans badges he was picking up, designed for members of the Salt Lake City police and fire departments. Lowther thought they were such a good idea that he set out to get some for his department as well.
Lowther said Lopez got the idea for the badges, which do not replace official badges, as a way for members of the departments to celebrate their military service. The program to produce and sell the badges to members of the various departments is called "Operation Shield," and Lowther said that "as far as I know, we (the Weber County Sheriff's Office) are only the third department in the state to do this."
The badges have the word "veteran" engraved along the top, and a symbol for the officer's service branch in the center.
Officers buy the badges themselves, and Lowther said the cost includes a $15 donation for the Wounded Warrior Project to help soldiers wounded in the Iraq and Afghan wars. Buying the badges is voluntary.
The badges aren't official. Officers can wear them only on Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Patriots Day and Pearl Harbor Day, he said.
Lowther said officers can also wear them when they go to special veterans events, such as visits to the George E. Wahlen Veterans Home in Ogden.