If you ever heard about the Tom Cruise movie, Born on the 4th of July and wondered who the man in the wheelchair was shouting protest slogans and marching to put an end to the divisive Vietnam war then you probably have heard about Ron Kovic. Kovic is a former non-commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps. Ron was hit by an enemy bullet and was rendered paralyzed from the chest down. Upon returning to the United States he became an anti-war activist. He was a rabid anti-war protester that in spite of his disability was jailed at least eleven times. He chronicled his painful experience in his memoir, “Born on the 4th of July,” which inspired the Oliver Stone movie. The film was well received and Kovic who wrote the screenplay received a scriptwriting nod from the Hollywood Foreign Press, which hands out the Golden Globe awards.
Even though his war ended more than fifty years ago, Ron still protests against all wars and fights to uplift the plight of wounded veterans. He was completely opposed to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and also served as a speaker during the Democratic National Convention. Today, he still serves as an inspiration to young people and is seen as a champion of veteran’s rights as he continues to lobby and fight for better treatment for these wounded warriors.
Early Life of Ron Kovic
Ron was born on July 4, 1946 at Ladysmith, Wisconsin. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Massapequa, Long Island, New York. His father, Eli Kovic was a supermarket clerk while his mother, Patricia, was a stay-at-home wife. Both his parents were World War 2 veterans and Ron was the eldest in a brood of 5. When he graduated and earned a general diploma, he enrolled at Hofstra University. Ron was not known to be good in academics during his high school years. He was however an excellent athlete and was very good at wrestling. He tried to take up baseball during college and discovered he was also good at that too. He mulled becoming a professional baseball player but the future had other plans for the energetic young man.
An inspiring speech by a military recruiter was a major turning point that would impact the rest of his life. He decided to join the United States Marine Corps. His decision to join the corps was bolstered by the fact that both his parents were from military backgrounds.
Ron Kovic’s Experience During The War in Vietnam
When Ron Kovic joined the United States Marine Corps, a war was brewing in South East Asia. Ron’s primary purpose for joining was he had a genuine desire to serve his country. Shortly after he enlisted and underwent basic training, he would be sent to Vietnam. Ron was assigned as a member of a reconnaissance platoon that did routine long-range patrols. All 18 members of the team were considered elites, serving H&S Co., 1st AmTrac Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. In one of his missions, the team was ordered to attack and kill civilians in a village who they thought were armed. However, after the incident they discovered that the information they got was inaccurate as none of the “combatants” had weapons. During the heat of battle, he shot by accident a young corporal. When Kovic reported to his superiors about the incident they did not want to hear about his confession and simply referred to it as “collateral damage.”
When Ron was fighting in a Vietnamese village, an enemy bullet hit him in the heel while a second bullet went through his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the chest down. For his bravery and wounds in battle, he was awarded the Purple Heart but instead of feeling proud of what he did, he was struggling with guilt and shame.
When he returned home from the war, he and many of his fellow wounded veterans did not receive a hero’s welcome for their sacrifice but were met instead with anger and shame for their participation in an unnecessary and wasteful war. He then vowed to spend the rest of his life protesting and spreading awareness against the Vietnam war and all wars while fighting for better treatment for wounded veterans.
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