Retired Army sergeant set to walk more than 3,000 miles across the nation for suicide awareness

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
  • 124th Fighter Wing

22 miles today, 22 miles tomorrow, 22 miles for 22 weeks. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy Novak is walking across the continental United States to raise awareness of the nation’s 22 veterans we lose, on average, to suicide each day.

Novak served in the United States Army for 21 years and is passionate about spreading inspiration for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or thoughts of suicide.

“I am out here to tell my fellow veterans that you are never alone,” said Novak. “Seeking help and reaching out is difficult and it requires courage, but it is a sign of strength and a sign of resiliency. If you need help, I am here for you. Please reach out and let someone help you. You are important. You are valuable. You are irreplaceable.”

On March 22, Novak set off from Dupont, Washington with a hiking bag on his back and a cart carrying his tent and other necessities to survive. He plans to end his journey in Florida on August 22, 2019.

From Washington he crossed the border into Idaho, and on April 18, Novak finished his 22 miles for the day in Boise where he spent that night at Gowen Field. After hearing about his story, several Soldiers, Airmen and leaders of the Idaho National Guard met him at the gate when he arrived.

“Anything that generates more awareness of suicide, I support,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and commander, Idaho National Guard. “It was an honor to shake hands with Jimmy as he entered the gates at Gowen Field and I wish him luck in this endeavor.”

Sgt. 1st Class Baltazar Dacones, from the Idaho Army National Guard, heard about Novak’s story and wanted to help. Dacones reserved a room on base for Novak and provided him with food and toiletries for his stay that night. Additionally, Dacones supplied extra food for Novak before he walked toward Mountain Home the following day.

Throughout the last 29 days, Novak has been in contact with local American Legions for any resources or help he needs along the way.

After Novak treks through Idaho, he will pass through 10 other states. Presently, he has just passed through Southern Idaho and is heading toward Wyoming, then to Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, ending in Florida.

At the end of his journey, Novak will have walked for five months and more than 3,000 miles in support of bringing awareness to suicides in our veteran community. The veteran’s crisis line and suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.