AUGUSTA — A 65-year-old Arizona man who set out from Utah on his bicycle in June on a cross-country ride meant to help prevent suicides by U.S. military veterans plans to complete his ride Wednesday in Augusta.

It will be the third such long-distance bike trek Tom L’Italien has completed on his mission to raise awareness and eliminate suicides by veterans.

His ride, according to a news release, is dedicated to bringing attention to the fact that every 65 minutes, a U.S. military veteran takes his or her own life. Suicides claim an average of 22 veterans every day, or more than 8,000 a year.

“Since 2001 approximately 108,410 veterans have taken their own life,” the release states. “Tommy’s bicycle ride is also a call to action across our country for the need to enhance the support and care provided to our men and women in uniform who defended our freedom through their U.S. military service and who continue to battle the lasting emotional and physical wounds of war.”

City, county and state officials, as well as veterans groups, plan to welcome L’Italien to Augusta at the conclusion of his ride.

“The city is going to roll out the red carpet for him,” City Manager William Bridgeo said.

L’Italien is expected to pedal into Augusta on Wednesday and be met by the Patriot Guard Riders and Legion Riders of Maine motorcycle groups, and a motorcycle escort provided by the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. They will ride down Western Avenue and through the downtown on Water Street, arriving at Old Fort Western about 1 p.m. for a ceremony.

The public is invited to attend, and Bridgeo said Old Fort Western, which usually charges admission, will be open to the public at no charge for those wishing to attend the event. If it rains, the event will be moved to the pavilion at Mill Park, off the north end of Water Street.

L’Italien, who is not a veteran, began his ride June 15 in Provo, Utah. He is president of the nonprofit group The Team Veteran Foundation. Donations may be made at the group’s website at www.TTVFoundation.org.

In 2013 L’Italien pedaled his bicycle from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Boston in 52 days; and in 2014 he rode from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 48 days.


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