(CNN) – Thirty years ago, Joe Meyer lost his sheriff’s deputy badge.
It was winter time in Nisswa, Minnesota. Then-Deputy Meyer been called to help a vehicle that was stuck in a ditch off of a gravel road. He realized his badge had disappeared from his jacket when he returned to the station.
Meyer went back to the same place but could not locate it, even after he had waited for the snow to melt in the spring.
Meyer had only been at the sheriff’s department for two years and the badge was his first with his name on it. It felt like a symbol that he had finally made it in the department.
“When I lost that, it sucked pretty bad,” Meyer said.
On Thursday, thirty years later, Zeke Larson, 11, and his older brother Rex were riding their bikes on the same, now paved, road.
Something shiny in the dirt caught Zeke’s eye. He jumped off his bike and pulled it out, revealing a tarnished deputy sheriff’s badge. It was a little rusty, of course, and all the gold had been scratched off, but he could still make out the name at the top: Joe Meyer.
Zeke told his dad, who told his neighbor, who informed Meyer. On Sunday evening, the badge was reunited with Meyer, now a captain at the department.
“It was a little bit emotional for me, just because of the significance of that badge, and to have it returned to me by two young boys meant a lot,” Meyer said.
Meyer, 52, says he is reaching the end of his career now and looking ahead toward retirement. The fact that a hallmark of his early days found its way back to him felt meaningful.
“It’s just remarkable that it was able to be returned to me at this time in my life,” he said. “I never expected to see this thing again.”