Veteran walking across America to raise awareness about PTSD travels through KCK
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A U.S. Army veteran's trek from the state of Washington to Florida took him through KCK on Wednesday.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy Novak has walked more than 1,400 miles since March 22.
"I've been through several struggles in my life and I wanted to have some time to reflect about what I've overcome and where I've been," Novak explained.
He said his service, including time in Iraq, was hard on him and still is, but he didn't say anything at the time.
"I was worried about stigma. I was worried that the infantry guys I worked with were going to think less of me," he said.
A VA study concluded 22 veterans die by suicide each day. Novak, a married father of three, could have been one of them.
"I was thinking suicidal thoughts. I had lethal means at my disposal. I had a plan, and I was doing rehearsals," he said.
But as he walked along K-32 preparing to cross the bridge into Missouri, only life was on his mind.
"Safety is my number one concern out here," Novak said.
He walks about 20 miles each day through all sorts of hazards and conditions. That included a severe thunderstorm warning on Wednesday that forced him to seek shelter in a Waffle House.
The waitress was happy to pay for his meal and give him money for the charities he's supporting: the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation.
Novak handed her a card with information for the Veterans Crisis Line and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
"It's a people problem, and while I'm raising awareness for the veterans community, it's bigger than that," Novak said.
Then he was back on the road to the next person's home who's volunteered to put him up for the night. The American Legion has also provided many hotel stays.
The man that used to think about dying said each step, each person in each city, has restored his faith in humanity.
"It turns out there are a lot of people that care about veterans and that care about the suicide issue in general. I'm very blessed," Novak said.
Novak plans to end up at Disney World in August. Spirit Airlines is going to fly his family down to greet him and then fly him back home to Washington where he'll get back to work as a barista.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the Veterans Crisis Line and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800 273-8255.
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