On a mission


When I met Doug Odom, he was on a mission.

I had arranged to photograph him for a magazine feature about his induction into the Arkansas Veterans Hall of Fame. He served during the Vietnam War, as many young men did in that era.

He was friendly yet quiet. He walked with a purpose, looked you in the eye during conversation, and had a steely demeanor that commanded instant respect.

I noticed that he had worn a jacket covered in patches reflecting his time during the war as well as various veterans causes including the Patriot Guard. I am also a motorcyclist, so the conversation turned to the motorcycles that we owned as well as the role of the Patriot Guard to protect families of veterans at funerals from protestors.

He noted one particular group of zealots, whom he dismissed with the statement, “They don’t like me very much.”

Once we wrapped the quick portrait session, he would be on his way to a nearby town for a “mission.” A veteran had committed suicide, and the Patriot Guard was providing an escort for the soldier’s family.

It was the way that he described what he and other members were doing as a mission that stuck with me. It wasn’t just a charitable act or a responsibility he was fulfilling; he was performing a mission, a task that he was trained to do, not leaving a man behind.

We did the shoot quickly, and were finished in about 15 minutes. He left to fulfill his mission.


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