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The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal at the link on the bottom of the page. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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Saving Veterans’ Lives One Step at a Time - A 3,000 Mile Journey Across the United States
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Jimmy L. Novak is walking 3,000 miles to raise awareness for PTSD and suicide prevention. He began walking in Washington State on March 22 and will end his walk in Orlando on August 22, 2019.

Jimmy is retired Sergeant First Class of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps who gave 21 years of his life serving our country. He served two combat tours overseas, one non-combat tour in Kosovo, and three assignments overseas in Germany and Saudi Arabia. Below this article, you will be able to see Jimmy's career in photos that were went to Pike County Times by his wife, Heather.

He passed through Pike County on Tuesday, July 30 in the afternoon for a stop at the American Legion Pike Post 197 in Zebulon before walking to Barnesville where he spent the night. American Legion Family Pike Post 197 made lunch for him in Zebulon and then took him out to dinner that evening and paid for his hotel room. Jimmy is headed over to Savannah and will head to Florida from there. He plans to be in Orlando for his birthday on August 22 where he will celebrate his journey, his retirement from military, and a job well done with family who will be flying in to meet him.

By the time that he had reached Zebulon, Georgia from his starting point in Washington State, Jimmy had worn out five pairs of shoes. He is rotating pairs six and seven now and is expecting to have to buy one more pair of shoes before his journey is complete. He is on his third generation of clothing. His first two failed after four weeks on the road. And he has lost about 30 pounds as he walked.

He has met some interesting people along the way. He has also been in contact here in Georgia with state representatives like Senator Mike Dugan, Senator Matt Brass, and Representative Josh Bonner who took care of lodging for Jimmy in their areas. Jimmy also praised the American Legion posts who have reached out to him on his journey across the United States.

Why Is #JimmyWalking ?

Jimmy is walking at least 22 miles each day in order to raise awareness about preventing military suicides. According to Jimmy’s website as well as his testimony about his life during this interview, “I have been a high functioning anxious depressive for most of my adult life, but I do not have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have struggled with thoughts of suicide and I also have seen many of my friends and associates’ lives torn apart by self-medicating and reckless behaviors stemming from their experiences in combat,” he said. “I am one of the lucky ones.”

“I want to help draw attention to the value of life. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary set of problems and it doesn’t end the pain. Suicide passes the pain on to the people who love us. So, I am here to tell my fellow veterans that you are never alone! 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!”

Jimmy is an Army Veteran who has struggled with anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide during his military career. “I never sought help for those things til the very end of my career because I was worried about what my peers would think about me, I was worried about losing security clearance, I was worried about career progression, I was worried about future assignments, and you name it—I was concerned about it,” he said.

He did say, in all fairness, that the Army’s standard position has always been that it’s a sign of strength to seek help and if you need help, get help because it makes you a better soldier, etc. “But when I was struggling, I wasn’t in a place where I could hear that,” he said. However, Jimmy found out first hand that when he did seek help, everything the Army had said about not affecting the things he was worried about was actually true. “As far as promotions and assignments and security clearances, everything that I talked to my counselor about was protected by HIPPA so none of that was anything that affected the day to day.” He even said that he was encouraged by those around him when he began to get the help that he needed.

Before he got help he said that he put on the work face and kept going back to work, but he can look back and see the red flags that were happening. “I realize that I am pretty lucky to even be here today…” And sharing his story helps keep things manageable and in perspective. “If I can inspire somebody to reach out and seek help early then I think that there is real goodness and benefit from being out here and doing this inspirational walk.”

And Jimmy realizes that he may never know the lives that he has touched while making this walk because many people are not going to realize what he is doing until he has already left the area and they see it on the news. But if he inspires just one person to get help early on, this trip is worthwhile. After all, saving veteran lives one step at a time is his focus for the 3,000 mile walk across America.

More below the pictures including how to donate to Jimmy's organizations and help pay for his lodging on this last leg of the trip.


Graduation from Basic Training

Kosovo in 2000

Re-enlistment in Germany

R&R in 2005

Homecoming from Iraq in 2005

Homecoming from Iraq in 2005

2nd Homecoming from Iraq

Jimmy with a wall mural that he painted

Retirement is sweet!

A Side Note

15 year old Willa Payton is the American Legion Auxilliary Honorary Junior President for the Department of Georgia. Her parents are dedicated members of our local American Legion, Pike Post 197, here in Zebulon. When she heard that Jimmy was walking to prevent veteran suicides, she said that she had to meet him because her statewide project and theme for this year is related to his walk.

Each year, the new president presents their project and theme for the entire state. Willa’s project is suicide prevention for our veterans. The theme is: “Be a Guardian Angel to Our Veterans.” She even drew her own design for a button and presented one to Jimmy when he visited the Legion post.

Willa lost a really good friend to suicide so suicide prevention awareness is a cause that is near to her heart. The Legion has shirts available as a fundraiser for her project for $15 donation each. You can contact her Mom, Peggi Payton, by Facebook Messenger, or text or phone at 770-468-4077 if you are interested in obtaining a shirt.

When asked what she thought about meeting Jimmy Novak during his trip across the country, she said, “That was really awesome!”

More below the pictures including how to donate to Jimmy's organizations and help pay for his lodging on this last leg of the trip.



Jimmy will be donating to two charities at the end of his walk. The first is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the second is Permission to Start Dreaming PTSD.org. You can donate to Jimmy’s expenses with all left over donations going to his chosen organizations at www.facebook.com/donate/393686471217636/852228528485868.

An important number to remember and share is The Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

If you want to find out more, Jimmy is on social media at #JimmyWalking and facebook.com/jlnovak22/. You can check out his website at http://jlnovak.com.

These pictures are from American Legion Pike Post 197 where Jimmy stopped to eat lunch and rest for a little on his journey. There are sponsor spots available for future nights if you want to help him with his lodging costs. If you see him walking on the next leg of his trip, honk or wave some encouragement to him. He is heading toward Savannah and down to Orlando from there.