ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A 63 year old Arizona man is peddling his way across the U.S. to raise awareness about the suicides of veterans.

There have been more than 9,000 veteran suicides since January 2012 says Tom L’Italien. He says thats one every 65 minutes.

“There is a mind set out there among people who think soldiers who commit suicide are cowards. These people are heros. I’m not a veteran but I know where my freedom comes from” L’Italien told KMOX News.

He’s peddling his way from Arizona to Boston and is in the St. Louis area now. (He will be at Gateway Harley Davidson on Lemay Ferry Saturday)

He represents the Team Veteran Foundation ( ) which would like to build rehabilitation facilities across the country even erect a 300 foot statue on an island off the west coast to recognize all veterans. It would be called the Statue of Responsibility.

L’Italien says most of the suicides have been by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “The government trains them to kill and then when they are released I don’t think they are reorientated back into society and it’s tough living with some of the things that happened in the war.” said L’italien.

He says the Team Veteran Foundation is drawing awareness to the needs of soldiers who ask for help, but who’s help often comes too late.

He has four more weeks on the bike ride to Boston. L’Italien said he expected some negative reactions from people, but says it’s been just the opposite . There’s been an outpouring of support.

Given the large number of suicides among soldiers who’ve returned home, he says what frightens him is that soon soldiers will be leaving Afghanistan in large numbers and they will need guidance.

In addition to rehab centers across the country, the Team Veteran Foundation would also like to set up a nationwide hot line to help veterans.

L’Italien says during the trip he broke a chain on his bicycle and as he repaired it he felt the presence of the 9,000 soldiers who took their lives since January 2012. “Although I’m one person riding on the road across the U.S., I’m not alone” said L’Italien.

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