Cyclist on Cross Country Suicide Responsibility Ride

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By Daniel Rona – June 15, 2013

Phoenix – Tom L’Italien, born in 1950 in Salem, Massachusetts, husband, father of four, brother to four Veterans and grandfather of three boys will be cycling from Flagstaff, Arizona to Boston, Massachusetts. He rides to bring awareness that every sixty-five minutes, another Veteran dies from some form of mental illness related to his service to our country. Twenty two Veterans commit suicide every day.

Screen shot 2013-06-25 at 11.44.33 AM“When my older brother, Al, returned from Vietnam, I saw how the tragedies he experienced impacted and changed his life. Although he never talked about his experiences, we could see a big difference in him. I’m bicycling across the country to bring awareness of our responsibility in this great nation to take better care of our Veterans. We need to recognize our veterans as heroes who have paid a big price for our freedom and support them when they come home. The families and loved ones of those lost to suicide continue to suffer. There are approximately 300,000 more vets coming home from the war this year. We need to step up and do something that will make a difference.” says Tom as he plans his journey.

Tom L’Italien was born one of 8 boys and attended high school in Peabody, Massachusetts then Salem State College. He held various positions over the years including working as a labor negotiator, an HR director working for a municipality, an HR Specialist and HR Director for a trucking company, and started a construction business-in part to rebuild his home after it burned down in 2005.

In addition to his working career, Tom volunteered for prison ministry for seven years, first for boys 14-18 years of age, coaching and mentoring to them before they were released back into the community. There’s something about this rugged, yet soft-spoken man that attracted troubled boys to his bible study. The boys volunteered for this activity and Tom’s classes were always filled! He says, “My goal was getting them back into schools, have them share their new-found responsibility with other young men and women. They needed direction to know how to turn their lives around.” Getting them to successfully re-enter public school or a job and involved in community activities that would keep them out of trouble was key. It started out as five hours a week and turned into a labor of love and many more hours!

Tom reflected on one case where he was led to teach a fourteen-year old inmate how to take care of his two-year old son, while he was in prison. He was teaching a child how to be a parent! He was teaching young men how to become responsible citizens.

Now married eighteen years, Tom met his present wife, Lauren, as they were both board members for a non-profit organization, Provider’s Resources, Inc. They provided nutrition training and resources to day-care providers. Combining their families, Tom’s two children, Tom and Traci and Lauren’s two, Emily and Dan, they continued sharing their life’s mission. Six years ago, moving to Phoenix, Arizona, they continued their personal ministry by feeding the homeless three to four times a year, making sandwiches, providing extra clothing and hygiene kits to help make their lives easier. In Tom’s words, “We are serving those who are the “least of these,” quoting from the Bible. Many of those who are homeless, they have discovered, are Veterans.

Tom L’Italien has deep beliefs founded in the democratic process and the freedom Americans cherish. As a man who has devoted his career to be responsible for the needs and just causes of the workers of America’s cities and companies, Tom and Lauren were impressed by a car door magnet for a service now called LegalShield© and Identity Theft Shield©. Becoming a member of LegalShield which is a cooperative organization of about 6,900 highly rated pre-paid attorneys across America, Tom also became an Associate for them and continues to provide service for human resource directors and owners of companies to provide unlimited access to legal services and identity theft monitoring and restoration. Tom also saw how supportive this is for Veterans.

He met D. Gordon Brown, founder of Team Veteran Foundation (TVF), a 501c3 organization 2 years ago. Having the same vision, combining efforts, and seeing a way to teach responsibility, Tom became a member of TVF and now serves on its Board of Directors. Tom said, “I know where my freedom comes from.” Team Veteran is bringing awareness to the nation that “The First cost of freedom is supporting our Veterans.” Female veterans are four times more likely to be homeless, along with their children, than males.

To share this sense of responsibility, Tom will be leaving Flagstaff Arizona on June 21st, 2013 riding a bicycle across the country to draw attention to the Veteran rate of one suicide every sixty-five minutes.

Additionally, Tom will bring national attention to the Statue of Responsibility (SOR), envisioned by the late Auschwitz survivor and well-known psychologist, Victor Frankl. Frankl foresaw a project to build the Statue of Responsibility on an island off the west coast of U.S.A. as a sequel to the Statue of Liberty off the coast of New York. Team Veteran Foundation is the Veteran initiative supporting the SOR project. The Statue of Responsibility is a historical mission that is changing the American society, completing Frankl’s equation: Liberty + Responsibility = our Freedom.

Tom L’Italien feels it is his responsibility to assist Veterans. Asked about being in shape for cycling across the nation, Tom smiled and said, “I have run and bikes long distances before and have trained for 3 or 4 triathlons! With regard to the trek I’ve adopted something I heard that speaks to me. ‘The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us’.” He loves to fly, is planning on getting a pilots-license, loves hiking, climbing, and golfing. But, he said, “Best of all is being Grampy!”

His bike ride across America gives you an opportunity to show your support and responsibility as well for this great cause. Follow Tom’s journey on www.teamveteran.org

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  • Robert S Moulds

    I say good for Tom L’Italien to help prevent veterans from dying of suicide being for the ones who need a friend.