Eddie Odoms is a Teach One to Lead One mentor, veteran and small business owner
VANCOUVER — Eddie Odoms doesn’t care for crowds. It’s hard on the PTSD. That hasn’t stopped him from protesting though. He walks for justice and restoration. After all, he is a mentor of dozens of young people. He wants to practice what he preaches.
“When you’re listening to someone talk, everybody always wants to listen to respond,” Odoms said. “They want to have a rebuttal right away, instead of listening to understand.”
Odoms was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He served in the 101st Airbourne’s Assault Division during Desert Storm. Now, he gives back to his community through his small business doing mold remediation for Realtors.
Today is Juneteenth, the little known independence day of African Americans after being freed from slavery. With all the turmoil and vitriol engulfing the country on the subject of racism and police use of force, Odoms decided to walk an 18 mile-route from Salmon Creek to the Clark County Courthouse in a one-man protest.
The 51-year-old veteran said he’s doing it for the “youngsters” so they know he’s standing with them. As a mentor with the Teach One to Lead One (T1L1) organization, Odoms has mentored dozens high school and middle school students in their own classrooms.
T1L1 uses positive, community role models like Odoms to instill core values and integrity into the youth of the county. Right now, T1L1 is raising money for new efforts during COVID-19 to continue working with youth. They have already raised over $11,000 and Odoms hopes to raise even more through his walk.
“I just wanted to get out and walk today and put myself in some pain, because I mean, the gentleman who died to get all this started, he didn’t choose to do that,” Odoms said. “He didn’t choose to die to spark this flame. So I figured if he was in pain, I could do pain for a day. You know what the heck?”
While walking down the street, waving at honks and cheers of support, Odoms recalled the powerful dichotomy of his experience, which has led to a thought process of love and mentorship.
“Our experiences in life develop how we’re dealing with this,” he said. “And I may have had some experiences with police officers that weren’t so positive when I hadn’t done anything. But I have a best friend who lives in Camas, he’s a police officer. And I trust that man with my life. It’s just education.”
T1L1 mentors and leaders came out today to support Odoms, and many shouted their appreciation for his walk from their cars passing by.
“On Monday we kicked off our ‘Move It!’ challenge,” said T1L1 Director Teresa Lutz in an email. “We have teams of people throughout Clark County committed to moving it to raise funds for kids. Participants are walking, running, dancing, hiking, biking, swimming or golfing to raise money for kids. Eddie … has combined his passion for racial reconciliation and T1L1.”
To support Eddie Odoms and other mentors with T1L1, you can visit them online at www.clarkwa.t1l1.org.