He has been assaulted, had a cup of urine thrown at him, had drivers try and hit him, been flashed by a car full of girls and even shot at, all while simply jogging to release stress and gain the health benefits that come along with exercise.
Don Kimball, a 71-year-old Northwest resident, has been seen by hundreds of people as he makes his way around a 5- to 7-mile loop he jogs, clad in his bright red shorts, no shirt, a camouflage military hat, a pair of aviator sunglasses and a set of radio headphones.
While tuned to either i97.5 or 96.1 KLPX, the Air Force Master Sergeant veteran claps, boogies and gets in the groove as he salutes veterans, American flags, and first responders in freezing and sweltering temperatures, and has been doing so since the early 80s.
“I went through, lets just say, a quick therapy for PTSD and one of the things that was stressed by the social worker, including the other guys that were there, was to find something to divert your mind,” Kimball said in his thick Boston accent. “So, I found jogging to be a diversion. Plus I was gaining weight after I came back, so I needed something to keep my weight down,” he joked.
This was after doing a tour from 1965 to 1967 in Vietnam where Kimball worked with the Army rescue group picking up the wounded and killed. He was later stationed in Iran, where Kimball and his team were set up in a mobile hospital. It was there he really began jogging a lot and found himself jogging with the Iranian Olympic team. He even started donning a keffiyeh to keep cool while jogging out in the desert in the middle of the day. Years later, and after rough and stressful nights of bad dreams, he finds himself out jogging earlier in the day and for longer amounts of time.
“I like running. It’s a mental thing. I like to keep-,” Kimball interrupted himself. “I lost people I loved. I lost a fiancée, and she was pregnant with a baby, and I watched them burn up in a helicopter. That is always going through my head.”
As he is making his way through the intersections and along the streets in the northwest, Kimball sees a lot of people driving who don’t seem happy. His goal, besides the previously stated, is to make someone’s day better.
“My thing is, if I can bring one smile to somebody who is miserable, I am happy,” Kimball said. “Because, I look at people as they are driving by, and some of them are really down in the dumps. If I can bring a smile to their face by just being stupid, I feel good. I am happy.”
One time, Kimball recalled a car-full of girls were happy enough to see him they all lifted their tops as they drove by. Unfortunately for the girls, a police officer was directly behind them and pulled them over after their little stunt.
“When I got down to the road, (the police officer) called me over and said, ‘Were you angry at these girls for doing that?’ I looked at him like he was crazy. I said, ‘No, they were having fun, just like I was having fun’ and that’s all I care about, so he gave them a warning.”
But some people haven’t been so happy to see him. While he was stationed down at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, he has been shot at on two separate occasions. He had a car full of teenagers throw a cup full of a liquid at him, which he could only guess was urine. He has been assaulted by a bicyclist who slapped him on the back as he rode past telling him he was walking on the wrong side of the road. After a short but stern confrontation, Kimball let the biker know that it was he who was in the wrong with riding his bike against traffic.
But adventures and encounters aside, he has lost nearly 100 pounds and now has a diet catered to his diabetic needs.
Kimball can also be found at Interfaith Community Services on Thursdays, working in the food bank department and with its health advocacy program.
With his retirement well under way, Kimball doesn’t plan on ending his jogging career any time soon. So while in the Northwest, if you are a veteran, have a flag on your car, are in a first responding vehicle or riding a motorcycle, expect to grab the attention of Kimball, as he grabs the attention of the rest of the drivers.