Shining the light

A new event to connect military veterans with community resources is coming to downtown Laramie.

Light of Day is set for Saturday at the corner of Third and Custer streets, in the Moose Lodge parking lot. The event begins with a group motorcycle ride, followed by live music, a speaker, food vendors and resource booths. All portions are free to the public.

“It’s a response to a real felt need in our community, to be supportive of veterans who are struggling with issues of adjustment and readjustment after military service,” said Craig Johnson, one of the event’s organizers.

The motorcycle ride is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., with participants meeting at 8:30 a.m. They’ll follow a 170-mile loop south on Wyoming Highway 230 through Woods Landing, then north to Riverside, north toward Saratoga, then east on Wyoming Highway 130 through Centennial and back to Laramie.

Johnson said he estimated the ride would take three or four hours, with riders returning in Laramie in time to catch music, grab food, listen to a speaker and learn about community resources. The first 50 riders to register will receive a commemorative gift.

Music is scheduled from noon-4 p.m., provided by a Fort Collins, Colorado-based country/rock and roll group called Harley and the V-Twins.

Johnson, a pastor at Whitewater Christian Church, said Light of Day isn’t affiliated with any group or organization.

“It’s just community members,” he said.

Those community members, like him, are troubled by studies such as one conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs that found an average of 22 veterans a day committed suicide from 1999-2010.

“Nobody wants to talk about those things, which perpetuates the condition for these men and women who are dealing with that stuff,” he said. “We need to engage the conversation, and we need to be supportive, and we need to not force anything on anybody.”

Johnson said he’s crossed paths with many veterans in his line of work and seen people struggling, people making positive changes and everything in between.

Organizations that will have booths at the resource fair are affiliated with health care, suicide prevention, counseling, rental assistance, adaptive sports and other veterans services.

“The idea is to literally set it before people and (let them) avail themselves of what they’re willing,” Johnson said.

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