Kitson speaks of post-Vietnam experiences

By RICK WATSON
Posted 11/9/19

Marine veteran and local author Jim Kitson, speaking to the Rotary Club of Jasper meeting Tuesday night, described his time in Vietnam and how the experience affected his life many years after he returned home.

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Kitson speaks of post-Vietnam experiences

Posted

Marine veteran and local author Jim Kitson, speaking to the Rotary Club of Jasper meeting Tuesday night, described his time in Vietnam and how the experience affected his life many years after he returned home.

Kitson was twice wounded in Vietnam and after spending a lot of time in military hospitals was discharged.

After his service he attended the University of Montevallo and earned a degree in biology.  He then went to work as a water improvement specialist and later worked 35 years for the Alabama Surface Mining Commission doing water quality work and reclaiming abandoned mines. 

His wife Kathy is from Oklahoma. They met in Alabama and after they married, they moved to Jasper in 1975.

Kitson went almost 30 years with no residual problems other than the wounds in his body. “Mentally, I placed it (his combat experience) in another spot and forgot about Vietnam,” he said.

Then in October 1993, he saw a news broadcast that changed his life.

American soldiers had been ambushed during the battle of Mogadishu, Somalia. The body of one soldier was being dragged through the streets while people beat and slashed his body with machetes.

The Mogadishu news report caused something to snap, according to Kitson.

“I thought I could handle it. I talked to people, Kathy and I prayed a lot but it just kept getting worse,” he said. “I didn’t know my soul needed healing.”

One day when he became upset, he saw fear in the eyes of his wife and children and that’s when he knew he needed help.

The next day he was heading to a project down U.S. Interstate 59 south and he drove past his exit. When he realized he’d missed his exit, he was nowhere near his original destination. “I was totally befuddled and had no idea how I got there,” he said.

“When I looked to my left I saw helicopters landing but I also saw cars zipping past,” he said.  He then realized he was in his truck with the air conditioner running. “It was one of those totally confused conundrum minutes,” he said. When he came to himself, he was in Meridian, Mississippi, which was over 100 miles away from his original destination.

“It was at that point that I realized that Jimmy needed help,” he said. He went to the Veterans Administration and after a few stops and starts, entered a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder program with several other veterans who were also experiencing PTSD symptoms.

The program began with 80 veterans, but only 11 remained at the end of the two-year program.

Kitson had buried his combat experience deep in his mind and never wanted to talk about it. After completing the PTSD program, he was able to open up more about his wartime experience. He shared his story in his book entitled "Jimmy, the Marine."

One unintended outcome that came from publishing his book was the impact that the part describing his PTSD experience had on readers. “That’s really a humbling thing,” he said.

Kitson spent so much energy in Vietnam doing his missions and staying alive that he had very little time to think about anything else. It wasn’t until later when he returned home and talked to his mother that he realized how profoundly his time in combat affected her.

“When I wrote this book, I never realized the depth of prayer, the depth of love, the depth of family, and community,” he said.

Copies of Kitson’s book are available online at Amazon Books. A few copies are available at Stewart Pools and Christian Book Store near Gabby’s Restaurant. They are also available at The Very Idea, which is located on Airport Road in Jasper, near Kilgore Green Funeral Home.

His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Jimmy-The-Marine-668840490231448/