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Retired vet walking from Washington to Florida to raise awareness for PTSD and suicide prevention

Jimmy Novak shares his story of struggling through PTSD in hopes of inspiring others to seek help like he did.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — At Anthem Coffee in Puyallup, Jimmy Novak walked up to a group of strangers sipping their morning coffee.

"Hi! I'm Jimmy, I'm walking across America."

Novak, who lives in DuPont, retired from the army at the end of January. 

At times during his 21-year-long career, he struggled with anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide.

"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 living," said Novak. 

To try and inspire more people, he's embarking on a walk across the country, from Washington to Florida. 

He hopes to talk with as many people as possible, spreading awareness about PTSD and veteran suicide as well as inspiring others who struggle to seek help, share their story and find physical activities to help with healing.

Novak says finding hiking has helped him in his journey toward healing and his big walk will be therapeutic for him as well as helpful to others.  

His plan is to reach Disney World by August 22. 

"That's how long my wife is going to allow me to be out on the road."

His wife Heather is nervous about her husband's trip but she's also supportive. 

"To me, this is all about his healing," she said. 

Novak has a 60-pound pack that he'll either carry or push in a stroller. He's prepared to sleep in a tent often but has some money for hotels too. 

He's funding the trip with his pension as well as through several fundraisers on GoFundMe and Facebook

Any money not used for food, shelter and emergencies during his walk will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation, based in Gig Harbor.

"If my journey could help someone on their journey, then that's what I want to do," he said. 

Novak started his journey on Friday, March 22, and plans on doing 22 miles a day. 

You can learn more about his journey from his website or by searching the hashtag #JimmyWalking.