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Veteran carves wooden plaques for fallen first responders

By Kim Powell

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    GILBERT, Arizona (KPHO) — A Gilbert Air Force veteran turned his 46-year hobby into a business with a purpose.

“The first part of your life, you’re learning. Second part of your life, you’re doing. Third part of your life, let me pay you back something,” said Darryl Petker, the owner of Honor Carvings.

Petker’s son is a Phoenix Police officer, and the veteran says he’s always been very patriotic. When he learned of Officer Paul Rutherford, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019, Petker decided to do something nice for the family. Officer Rutherford’s badge plaque was the first “memorial badge.” Since then, he’s given out 160 memorial badges.

“It’s basically for those who die in the line of duty — gents, firemen, policemen, FBI agents — I’ve given a lot of these plaques, even K9s,” Petker said. “Those go out, no charge; they’re on me.”

The money he makes from other carvings and donations helps him buy the equipment and tools needed for the memorial plaques.

“The memorial plaques themselves cost me, and that does not include my time, the ones I give away cost me about $75, and that includes shipping, which is a big expense,” Petker explained. “The sandpaper, the electricity, the lights, wear and tear on the machines, stuff like that.”

Each plaque takes up to 2-3 days to complete. “It takes about 15-18 hours on the machine to carve the wood, then I gotta pull it off, gotta sand it and finish it by hand,” Petker explained. “It keeps me busy; when you’re retired, you gotta stay busy.”

Petker says he gets thank-you notes and patches from all over the U.S. for his handmade memorial wood carvings, which he says makes it all worth it.

“I want them to know that this is a loss. Not only for their family, their friends, for their circle of people, of firemen or soldier or agent. Us out there, who don’t know them, also feel the loss,” Petker said.

If you would like to help Honor Carvings afford material for the memorial plaques, you can donate here: gofundme.com/f/memorial-plaques-first-responders

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