“I’m not a veteran, but I know where my freedom comes from.”
Those were the words of Tom L’Italien, 63, who stopped in Troy last week during his cross country bicycle trip to raise the national awareness on the number of suicides of our veterans who are coping with issues as they transition back into our country. L’Italien said since 2012, well over 9,000 veterans have taken their lives, one every 65 minutes.
“I want Americans to understand that the things we enjoy and take for granted on a daily basis was earned by our brave military,” he said. “This is a small honor for me to do. It is a privilege.
This nationwide campaign began just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona for L’Italien. He will cover over 2,700 miles ending in Lynn, Mass. In addition to bringing attention to the suicide issue, he also is riding for the Statute of Responsibility Statute. A board member of Team Veterans Foundation, Inc. said this non-profit 501C-3 entity is wishing to build a monument to veterans in San Diego. The memorial will be built the same height as the Statute of Liberty in New York and will be built in the shape of the military hand clasp.
“People generally do not like to talk about suicide but it not only has affected our veterans but their families as well,” he said adding he considers it an epidemic. “This is a cause which can’t wait,” he said.
Physically, the Midwest heat and humidity has taken its toll, most recently when he went through Martinsburg enroute to a stop in Mexico, Mo. He said he attempted to enter the military in 1969 but was rejected to a weight issue. During his stay in Mexico, he said he was able to speak to local leaders and veterans in a group home.
“We need to recognize our veterans as heroes, not subjecting them to the reception to our veterans returning from Vietnam,” he said. “We are expecting more than 300,000 to return this year and next and now is the time to make a positive difference in their lives. This is our first cost of freedom.”
He supports the Tean Veteran Foundation to raise funds through corporate support to build additional medical facilities with surrounding homes to support families. Among the other goals is the establishment of a national suicide hotline.
L’Italien’s bike ride across America gives citizens an opportunity to show their support for the “Cross Country Responsibility” cause. Follow his journey on http://teamveteran.org /whereswaldoscousintommy/
To learn more about the Team Veteran Foundation, visit the website www/TeamVeteran.org and http://teamveteran.org/suicideresponsibilityride/ to learn more about the suicide responsibility ride.