I broke one of my cardinal rules earlier this month and made a comment on a Facebook news link expressing an opinion on a controversial issue.

After 10 years of expressing no opinions and making no waves on Facebook, and sticking mostly to posting pictures of my dog, I made the mistake of questioning President Trump’s decision to give Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom (PMOF).

I stated something to the effect, “Golfer of the Year? Sure. Athlete of the Year? Why not. But there are a lot of people doing a lot of things to help a lot of people in this country, and I’m not sure if being a good golfer should be enough to merit the nation’s top civilian honor.”

A deluge of rage and hatred

Within 10 minutes, my Facebook feed was exploding with a deluge of rage and hatred.

“You don’t know anything! You are a moron! Obama did this! Clinton did that! You’re so fat you obviously don’t know anything about golf!”

Yes, someone actually checked out the photos on my Facebook page and ridiculed my Dunlapse Disease (my belly dunlapse over my belt).

Eventually I deleted the haters. The attacks on my intelligence didn’t bother me, but the body shaming was below the belt. (Pun intended.)

One seemingly rational person pointed out, however, that my expectations of what is required to receive the PMOF are probably uninformed and I should research the award.

And you know what? He was right.

Cultural and private endeavors

The PMOF is awarded “for especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States; or world peace; or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

But the main emphasis recently seems to be on the cultural and private endeavors.

Look at the list of recipients. In the the categories of Movies, Theater, TV, Art and Dance combined, there are 55 recipients; in the Music category, 41; in Literature and Journalism, 40; in Business and Economics, 40; and in Sports, 32.

On the flip side, in the Humanitarian category, there are eight recipients; in Environmentalism, nine; and in Philanthropy, 12.

That would seem to be a blaring statement about our priorities as a nation. Of course, we’ve got 21 recipients in Science and 21 in Medicine, so it’s not all golf and movie stars.

Honoring our regular everyday heroes

Tiger Woods already gets plenty of accolades (and money). Let’s honor our regular, everyday heroes for a change.

I like to see people being recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty, not for their personal gain, but for the good of their community and/or fellow man.

In fact, I meet a lot of people like that in my travels covering the Hawkins County news beat. For example, every member of a volunteer fire department and rescue squad goes above and beyond the call of duty every day for no pay and little recognition.

That’s why I’m creating my own award, which I’m going to call the Hawkins County Medal of Merit (HCMOM).

Hawkins County Medal of Merit

On Friday, I skimmed my old headlines over the past 12 months and came up with my inaugural HCMOM recipients. Someone deserving will be left out, I’m sure, and I apologize for that. But these are some pretty good ones.

1. Deputy Mark Harrell and Hawkins County Rescue Squad member John Gardner.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 7, Harrell and Gardner swam through the ice-cold, heavy current of a flooded Big Creek to a truck that had floated away and was sinking with a woman inside. They broke out the back window, pulled her out, and got her to shore a little wet and cold but otherwise unharmed.

2. Federal Express delivery driver Garrett Nicholson, who on Sept. 26 delivered a second chance at life to a woman in distress.

He grabbed a woman who attempted to jump off the Marble Hall Road bridge near Rogersville and held her by one arm dangling 35-40 feet above the rocky bed of Caney Creek for five minutes until the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office arrived.

3. Of One Accord ministry founder Sheldon Livesay, who celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2018 having provided more than $50 million in goods and services to 1.38 million people in Hawkins County since 1988.

Those goods and services were delivered through programs like the emergency food pantry, medical mission, Operation Good Neighbor home renovations, Christmas for the Children, winter coats, and home meal deliveries, to name a few.

4. Hawkins County’s high school NJROTC instructors Clyde Shumate and Gary Stidham at Cherokee, and Steve Bickford and Norman Greear at Volunteer.

Last month, Cherokee’s NJROTC unit earned its 13th consecutive Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors; while Volunteer’s NJROTC earned its 11th consecutive Distinguished Unit citation and also had earned individual and team national air rife championships.

More important, these NJROTC programs are developing the future leaders of Hawkins County, Tennessee and the nation. They are succeeding in their mission to instill in their cadets the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment.

5. Hawkins County Veterans Services Officer Danny Breeding has done so much behind the scenes to help his fellow vets it would take a full page to do him justice. But here are a few highlights.

He brought millions of dollars into Hawkins County by assisting Vietnam vets and their heirs through the complicated red tape of receiving their Agent Orange disability compensation.

He brought to my attention the search for family members of WWII soldier Pfc. Lewis Price; which led to a news article; which led to the Army acquiring DNA from family members; which resulted in the remains being identified. After being missing for 74 years, Price was buried in Rogersville this past December.

Also this past year, Breeding helped reunite a decorated Afghanistan War veteran with his medals which had been turned in to a thrift store and reunited a lost WWII Purple Heart with the family members of its owner.

No actual medals available

There’s no budget for actual medals, ribbons, or a ceremony. All that my recipients receive is their name in the newspaper, and if this year’s recipients want an extra copy of the newspaper, I will try to sneak one out for them. Next year, I’ll solicit nominees in advance and get some community input.

Speaking of input, anyone who wants to bash me on Facebook for criticizing the Tiger Wood PMOF should remember one thing.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone is entitled to exercise their right to keep their opinions to themselves — which is something I plan on doing from now on when it comes to Facebook. I’m going back to posting dog photos.

Jeff Bobo covers Hawkins County for the Times News. Email him for jbobo@timesnews.net.