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Students choose five for honors

The “flag man” who makes sure Old Glory is displayed downtown on holidays.
The founder and organizer of Team Wandell.
An Iraq war veteran and Christian camp counselor.
The founder of an annual summer food program.
A neighbor who protected a child from a wounded bear.
These will be the recipients of the first Carter County Citizens Award medal, and will be recognized during a May 6 ceremony.
Students in a course on special topics in American history at Elizabethton High School collected applications and selected the recipients of the CCCA; they started the project while studying the Medal of Honor and past recipients of that award.
Class teacher Alex Campbell said the group received 19 nominations from the community.
“It was a very difficult choice,” Campbell said. “The students created a scoring system based on five criteria including citizenship, patriotism, selflessness, courage, and sacrifice.”
The first Carter County Citizens Award recipients are Dean Blevins, Kelly Geagley, Lance Cpl. Nathan Morrow, Angie Odom and Chad Tipton.
Blevins is the “Flag Man.” He sets out flags in downtown Elizabethton and at other city businesses on certain holidays throughout the year.
“This project used to be done by a local community group, but in the 1990s when they decided to no longer conduct the program, Blevins took on the project by himself,” the nomination said. “He has to set up, take down, store, preserve, and clean all of the flags by himself. He has done it for nearly 20 years even though he is now almost 80 years old.”
Geagley is the founder and organizer of Team Wandell. Geagley is East Side Elementary School Principal Josh Wandell’s uncle. He is also the director of the Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency.
“He has always been like a surrogate father to (Josh Wandell) … which included attending every game he ever played and every school function of which he was a part of,” the nomination said. “When Wandell was diagnosed with ALS, he started Team Wandell which raises money to pay for the current and future health care expenses.”
Morrow served in the Iraq War and is also a counselor at Doe River Gorge. He was a junior at East Tennessee State University when his Marine Reserve unit was mobilized to Iraq.
“Nathan was the head gunman on the first Humvee leading a convoy of Army and Marine vehicles when a homemade bomb buried underground exploded to the right of his vehicle,” the nomination said. “When he turned to see where the blast came from, another bomb struck to the left side of him spraying shrapnel into his face. Nathan suffered injuries to his head, neck, face, arm, ears, eyes, and his upper body.”
As a result of his injuries, Morrow is deaf in his left ear and has impaired vision in his left eye. He returned home for continued medical treatments. He returned to his job as Doe River Gorge counselor “to help the youth of the area.”
Odom is the founder and director of the Abortion Alternatives and Women’s Center and TLC Community Center. The center runs the Summer Food Program, which served more than 48,000 meals to Carter County children last summer through its nine-week program.
“There is no cost to the children for this program,” the nomination said. “Each day, Monday through Friday, during the program the children received a hot supper meal as well as bagged food items which they could eat for breakfast and lunch the following day.”
Tipton is credited with saving his 10-year-old neighbor from a wounded bear during a hunting trip.
“He was asked by a 10-year-old neighbor child to take him bear hunting,” the nomination said. “Despite working night shift, he decided not to sleep and take this boy hunting. When Tipton and he were hunting, a wounded bear of 600 pounds came toward the boy. Tipton stepped between the wounded bear and the boy and … (drove) the bear away, saving the boy’s life.”
The recipients will be recognized during an open ceremony at First Baptist Church in Elizabethton on May 6 at 7 p.m. Silver Star recipient Clebe McClary will be the keynote speaker.
The class will have a fundraiser on May 1 to help pay the event’s expenses.
The fundraiser will be held at Stateline Drive-In. Donations will be $5 per person. There will be free face painting, balloon animals and a Disney-themed costume contest for children age 12 and under with prizes.