Odom honored for service to country and Crenshaw
Published 10:36 am Thursday, November 17, 2016
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) Ray Odom, a Vietnam veteran, 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.
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“It’s dedicated to the men and women of Crenshaw County.”
After 27 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.
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.
This past week, schools all across Crenshaw County held ceremonies honoring veterans in the community. It was at Luverne High School’s ceremony where Odom would receive a surprise he never expected.
“On behalf of the City of Luverne, along with mayors and councilmembers both past and present, we present an award to a veteran who has not stopped serving his country and fellow servicemen,” said Kip Smith, councilman for the City of Luverne.
“We wish to express our sincerest appreciation and thanks to Thomas Ray Odom for his many years of military service and the many years he has maintained the Veterans Memorial Park.”
It was during this ceremony that the City of Luverne took the opportunity to honor Odom by dedicating a marker to him, which can now be found proudly displayed in the Veterans Memorial Park.
“I didn’t know a thing about this. I knew my grandson wanted me to come for him, but I didn’t know this was happening,” Odom said.
“I knew something was going on when I saw Kip Smith go up there. I knew he has something up his sleeve then.”
The Veterans Memorial Park was officially dedicated on Veteran’s 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.
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, flagpoles and flags in the park in the early 1990s. He also credits John Harrison and Jim Purdue with being big sources of help during the process as well. All who enter the city can now see his handiwork; it 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.