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Veteran walking across America to raise awareness of veteran suicides

Jimmy Novak is on a 3,190-mile journey

PUYALLUP, Wash. – In January, Jimmy Novak retired from the U.S. Army after 21 years, and one of the first big things he's doing is a trip.

"What I'm going to be doing while I'm out there is I'm talking about behavioral health issues that impact the veterans' community, raising awareness for soldiers with PTSD," said Novak.

He wears the "22" on his wristband. On average, that's the number of veterans the  U.S Department of Veterans Affairs says lose their lives to suicide each day.

That 22 is also a statistic he could have been part of.

"I would actually take out my weapon, make sure it was cleared first and sometimes I'd practice putting it under my chin, listening for the trigger, the hammer to fall," said Novak. "Having been there and having survived and made the choice not to make that step, it's very real and very personal to me to get out and inspire others to keep on living."

His first deployment was hard on him, but after seeking help, sharing his story and finding an outlet through hiking, he overcame his anxiety, depression and dark thoughts.

"I'm aiming for 22 miles a day and on the 22nd of August, I'm getting to Disney World. My wife says that's as long as I'm allowed to stay away," said Novak.

His wife, Heather, is nervous but proud, and she hopes her husband's message gets out there.

"Each case is different. I'm just trying to raise awareness and to help people know what's going on before somebody is in crisis," said Novak.

Novak started his 3,190-mile journey on March 22 and plans on doing 22 miles a day.

If you are interested in finding out more about his walk, you can visit his website at jlnovak.com.