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.
“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!
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