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Special gift brings back memories

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Jack Simpson

Special Christmas gift brings back memories

Friends are asking, "Did you have a good Christmas?" Yes, I did. All of my gifts were really nice, but the main one was special.

I could have gotten an engraved pocket watch, some new clothes, a special coffee mug, a bright tie, etc. However, what my wife got me was a retired FBI badge. It was a special gift for an old retiree who has everything.

A gift like this was a challenge to find and a challenge to provide proper documentation enabling the purchase.

For 23 years, I carried such a badge every day of my life, before returning it to the FBI upon retirement. I'm sure by now that the treasured badge has been reissued, but its memories remain with me.

Back in 1909, the FBI badge was first carried by special agents of the Bureau of Investigation. This particular badge was redesigned in 1924 when J. Edgar Hoover became director and the year in which I was born. It was 1935 when the name of the division became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Agents' badges were then made by the Robbins Company of Attleboro, Mass. They had numbers from 1 to 1,000. When those special agents retired, they recycled these badges. Think of the many stories they could tell.

I thought of some of this badge history when I received my Christmas present. It brought back memories of the many assignments we carried our badges on. Cases such as kidnappings, civil rights violations, cyber attacks, bank robberies, the hunt for terrorists -- to name only a few. These badges and agent credentials were displayed hundreds of times over the years. They served as symbols of the authority of the special agents.

I remember when first I got my badge. I earned it the hard way. And, after graduation from the FBI Academy, I carried it in my left front pocket. It was attached to a key chain -- one end on the badge and the other on my belt. There was no way I would chance losing my symbol of authority.

It was in my pocket when Director J. Edgar Hoover shook my hand and welcomed me as a new federal officer. The badge helped me realize I had just been accepted into the most exclusive and professional law enforcement agency in the world.

I was honored to carry the badge and to serve my country for 23 years. Returning it upon my retirement, I felt I had lost a good friend. That badge had designated me as an officer of the law, a protector of the peace. It was a sign of authority, allegiance and membership in a special organization -- a "we" team.

My 2012 badge gift from my wife is so appreciated, and I thank her again for finding me such a gift. The badge brings back so many memories and reminds me of the FBI family members with whom I served. My associates and I carried our badges into many important historical events.

More than 13,000 special agents serving in 56 field offices and in U.S. embassies around the world will tell you they have been honored and proud to serve their country as members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.