Tennessee family raising money to fly deceased veteran’s body from Springfield to Memphis

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Sept. 22, 2016


SPRINGFIELD — A mother in Tennessee hopes the public can help raise money to fly her military veteran son’s body home, after he committed suicide in Springfield last weekend.

Pfc. Taylor Lee Odom, 23, hanged himself Saturday, his mother, Jenniffer Palazola-Herrin, said. After being injured during training in the U.S. Army, he was medically retired from the military in July 2015. He moved to Springfield five months ago to study automotive technology at Lane Community College under the GI Bill.

Odom had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for four years, Palazola-Herrin said, stemming from a traumatic brain injury he received in a training accident at Fort Carson in Colorado.

In the 2012 accident, Odom was thrown from a Humvee and partly crushed as it rolled on him, local news reports said at the time.

Even as he slowly recovered, Odom suffered from symptoms related to his PTSD, Palazola-Herrin said, speaking from her home in Memphis.

He attempted suicide before, she said, and care was subpar at the Memphis-area Veterans Affairs hospitals where they sought help.

“Every time I took him in, when he needed help after the suicide attempt, when he needed the mood stabilizers he needs, he pretty much got blown off,” Palazola-Herrin said. “I could go on with the horror stories about the hospital and the VA, but it’s all over with.”

Her hope now is to give Odom a proper military funeral. But she said he can’t be flown across state lines until his body is preserved and embalmed.

Tyler Franke, a spokesman with the Veterans Administration in Salem, said he knows of no state or federal money or benefits that can be used to transport a veteran’s body in “this kind of unique situation.”

The family started a GoFundMe page online to raise money for the preparations and funeral. Those costs totaled $7,800, but the family lowered their request to $4,000 after the Wounded Warrior Project made a large contribution, Palazola-Herrin said.

She hopes her son’s story can be part of a dialogue about improving VA care for veterans.

“There are a lot more soldiers out there that don’t need to be blown off,” she said.

Odom is survived by his mother and younger brother, Richard Scott Taylor, 19.

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