When Raymond Odum needed help with military funeral honors for his cousin, he turned to a local American Legion post. These days, he’s the one assisting others, as veterans service officer for Las Animas County and Stanley Hardman Post 11 in Trinidad, Colo.
“This is just as much serving as when I was active, and I love it,” he says.
Odum retired from the Army in 2010, but he wasn’t ready to leave the service. “I was still in that mode of going out there with my battle buddy. Now my battle buddies are here.”
Just about every day, he helps veterans young and old access their benefits. Sometimes more than that.
Recently, a first responder contacted Odum about a homeless Vietnam War veteran living near the local fairgrounds. “He was sick, out of medicine. I worked with the Department of Human Services to get him medicine and into a homeless shelter. He ended up finding a job and called to thank me.
“Our goal is to help you move on. We want you to be successful. That’s the thing about The American Legion: we are a family and community.”
The greatest need of veterans who contact Odum is health care – getting them enrolled in VA and on their way to better health, physically and mentally.
“We really have to get that mental thing down,” he says. “How can we get those veterans help so they can be successful? That’s how we were trained (in the military). You never quit. As long as I’m here, I’m going to help veterans who are in need. When they know somebody cares, they’re willing to receive that help.”
For Odum, every success story is thanks enough: “‘Ray, I got into the system.’ ‘Ray, they’re taking care of my heart problem.’ Those are benefits they earned by serving, and that’s what makes me so happy about doing this job.”
Branch of Service Army (1990-2010)
Rank Sergeant first class
Military job Combat engineer
American Legion post Stanley Hardman Post 11, Trinidad, Colo.
Years in the American Legion 3
American Legion activities Post service officer (2018-present)