PROFILE: Odom builds park to honor fellow Crenshaw veterans
The following article was part of the Profile 2016 special section of The Luverne Journal. The section in its entirety can be found in the March 31 edition of The Luverne Journal.
To those who live in The Friendliest City in the South, it’s hard to remember a time when the Veterans Memorial Park did not sit proudly at the entrance of the city. This park serves as a reminder of those who have fallen in combat over the years, and was created by a veteran who understood the importance of service firsthand.
In 1989, Thomas (Tommy) Odom went before the Luverne City Council to make his request for a veterans’ park to be added to the city. At that time, there was no monument or memorial set up to honor veterans of Crenshaw County, and Odom thought it was far past time to have something erected.
“I built it, designed it and put up all of the flag poles. Nobody’s ever done anything for the veterans of Crenshaw County,” Odom said. “It’s dedicated to the men and women of Crenshaw County.”
After 26 years, Odom still maintains and cares for the park. He can be seen at any time of the day or evening tending to the grounds, keeping watch on the well-being of the flags and paying his respects to his fellow servicemen and women.
Odom is a Vietnam veteran. He was wounded twice and received two purple hearts, and truly understood the importance of having an area dedicated to those in Crenshaw County who served and fell in battle.
The Veterans Memorial Park was officially dedicated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2011. Along with the park dedication, a refurbished Army M-1 anti-tank gun was also purchased, brought in and dedicated at the ceremony. Because Luverne’s National Guard unit was activated in the Korean and Vietnam Wars as part of an artillery battalion, Luverne’s mayor at the time, Joe Rex Sport, and Odom wanted a small artillery piece in the park which would pay tribute to the local guard unit.
After the City of Luverne purchased the gun, Odom worked tirelessly to refurbish the antique. The city also was able to pour the concrete slab for the gun in time for the Veterans Day ceremony.
During the ceremony, Odom, Sport and leaders from Luverne, Dozier, Glenwood, Brantley, Highland Home, Rutledge and Petrey gathered to pay tribute to the those fallen veterans, as well as to those currently serving.
It was during this ceremony that Odom was also presented the Resolution of Appreciation from the City of Luverne for his hard work and dedication to park. Odom was also nominated as the Citizen of Year for his service to the community regarding the park.
Odom recalls the days before the park received the current monument that now stands proudly in the park. Before that time, a small, white cross stood in the park in honor of each fallen citizen of Crenshaw County; there were 78 crosses that adorned the park.
“There were 78 people who died in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Seven were killed in Vietnam. But we were running out of room,” Odom said. Not long after this, Odom found an idea for a stone monument and started working with city officials to have one made.
Odom was instrumental in the establishment of the Veterans Memorial Park, and actually earned the funds for the monument, flag poles and flags in the park in the early 1990s. He also credits John Harrison and Jim Purdue with being a big source of help during the process as well. His handiwork can now be seen by all who enter the city, and is appreciated and enjoyed by many in the county.
“I was a veteran in Vietnam; we lost a lot of people. I made it home. This park is for those veterans who never made it home,” Odom said.