By Frank Denzler Rushville Republican
---- — In an effort to raise awareness regarding the number of suicide deaths of American veterans and as a means to generate funding to assist family members of those left in the wake of those suicides, Tom L’ltalein of Sun City, Ariz. has taken to the road.
The school bus driver is spending his summer vacation pedaling his bicycle across the country.
L’ltalein recently passed through Rush County and took a few moments to discuss the reasoning behind his ride.
Although not a veteran himself, he is the brother of four veteran siblings and he acknowledges his brothers came back “different” from their active duty experiences in the military.
He cited that already this year, 3,832 veterans and an additional 201 active service men and women have committed suicide, a number that equates to an average of one death every 65 minutes and 22 such deaths on a daily basis.
“That figure is staggering! Myself and others feel that not enough is being done to help transition these men and women back into everyday life once they’ve served their country and given us the freedoms we enjoy daily. That is just not acceptable and something has to be done,” the Arizona man said.
When asked how he came to the decision to ride, L’Ltalein said the sheer number of deaths and the lack of answers as to why it was occurring with such frequency were the basis for his desire to do something. He continued by saying that 300,000 more veterans will be returning home in the near future and he is concerned for them as well.
He said that following a visit from the Holy Spirit in early June the decision was made to begin the ride.
“I got up the morning of June 10 and talked to my wife about making the ride and she gave me her support, so right then and there I made the decision. Eleven days later, on June 21, I left Flagstaff and headed east,” L’Ltalein said.
Since beginning the ride, L’Ltalein has come into contact with a growing number of individuals that have voiced their support. As he puts it, those impromptu meetings have legitimized his decision to spend his summer vacation on the road.
“I am bicycling to help draw awareness that we have a responsibility to take better care of veterans that help maintain the freedoms we have,” L’Ltalein said.
The 2,700-plus mile ride will culminate in Lynn, Mass. in a few weeks.
L’Ltalein said that many in the community of 200,000 are veterans and the mayor of that city offered early support of the effort; a parade and other events are planned for L’Ltalein’s arrival.
L’Ltalein is carrying a 17-inch replica of the Statue of Responsibility. In the coming years, the Statue of Responsibility will be built on the West Coast in the same height and manner as the Statue of Liberty that stands in the harbor of New York City on the East Coast.
To learn more on the perils facing many returning veterans, to pledge to the effort, or to gain more information on the ride a website has been set up at www.teamveteran.org.
Contact: Frank Denzler @ 765.932.2222 x106