Ronald Lawrence Kovic
July 4, 1946 (age 75)
Ladysmith, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Branch||US Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1964–1968|
Ronald Lawrence Kovic (born July 4, 1946) is an American anti-war activist, communist, writer, and United States Marine Corps sergeant who was wounded and paralyzed in the Vietnam War. His 1976 memoir Born on the Fourth of July was made into the Academy Award–winning 1989 film directed by Oliver Stone.
Kovic was born in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, the second eldest of the six children  of Patricia Ann Lamb (January 6, 1923 – June 30, 2006) and Eli Thomas Kovic (August 3, 1920 – May 1, 1999). He met Lamb during the Second World War when she was serving in the United States Navy to which she enlisted not long after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. She was of Irish ancestry, and a housewife. Eli was a Serbian American. In high school, Ron Kovic was a wrestler and pole vaulter, and hoped to be a Major League Baseball player after graduation.
Military service in Vietnam
Kovic volunteered to serve in Vietnam, and was sent to South Vietnam in December 1965 as a member of H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. In June 1966, he was transferred to Bravo Company, Second Platoon, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division where he participated in 22 long range reconnaissance patrols in enemy territory and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V for valor. After a 13-month tour of duty, he returned home on January 15, 1967. He was subsequently assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, North Carolina. Several months later, he volunteered to return to Vietnam for a second tour of duty.
On January 20, 1968, while leading a reconnaissance force of battalion scouts from the 1st Amtrac Battalion just north of the Cửa Việt River in the vicinity of the village of Mỹ Lộc, in the Demilitarized Zone, Kovic's squad came into contact with the NVA 803rd Regiment and elements of a Viet Cong battalion that was besieging the village; he was shot by NVA soldiers while leading his rifle squad across an open area, attempting to aid the South Vietnamese Popular Force unit in the village. Deserted by most of his unit, he was shot first in the right foot, which tore out the back of his heel, then again through the right shoulder, suffering a collapsed lung and a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. The first Marine that tried to save him was shot through the heart and killed, before a second Marine carried Kovic to safety through heavy enemy fire. Kovic then spent a week in an intensive care ward in Da Nang. As a result of his service and injuries in the conflict, Kovic was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V" for heroism in battle and the Purple Heart.
Before the end of the war in Vietnam was declared on April 30, 1975, Kovic became one of the best-known peace activists among the Vietnam veterans, and was arrested 12 times for political protesting. He attended his first peace demonstration soon after the Kent State shootings in May 1970, and gave his first speech against the war at Levittown Memorial High School in Levittown, Long Island, New York that same spring. Kovic's speech that day was interrupted by a bomb threat and the auditorium was cleared.
Undeterred, Kovic continued speaking to students from the school's football grandstands. His first arrest was during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration at an Orange County, California draft board in the spring of 1971. He refused to leave the office of the draft board, explaining to a representative that, by sending young men to Vietnam, they were inadvertently "condemning them to their death", or to be wounded and maimed like himself in a war that he had come to believe was "immoral and made no sense". He was told that, if he did not leave the draft board immediately, he would be arrested. Kovic refused to leave and was taken away by police.
In 1974, Kovic led a group of disabled Vietnam War veterans in wheelchairs on a 17-day hunger strike inside the Los Angeles office of Senator Alan Cranston. The veterans protested the "poor treatment in America's veterans' hospitals and demanded better treatment for returning veterans, a full investigation of all Veterans Administration (VA) facilities, and a face-to-face meeting with ths head of the VA, Donald E. Johnson. The strike continued to escalate until Johnson finally agreed to fly out from Washington, D.C., and meet with the veterans. The hunger strike ended soon after that. Several months later, Johnson resigned. In late August 1974, Kovic traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he spent a week in the Catholic stronghold of "Turf Lodge," interviewing both political activists and residents. In the spring of 1975, Kovic, author Richard Boyle, and photo journalist Loretta Smith traveled to cover the war in Cambodia for Pacific News Service.
From 1990 to 1991, Kovic took part in several anti-war demonstrations against the first Gulf War, which occurred not long after the release of his biographical film in 1989. In early May 1999, following the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Kovic met with China's ambassador to the United States Li Zhaoxing at the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C. to express his condolences and present the ambassador and his staff with two dozen red roses. He was an outspoken critic of the Iraq War.
In November 2003, Kovic joined protests in London against the visit of George W. Bush. He was the guest of honor at a reception held at London's city hall by Mayor Ken Livingstone. The following day, he led a march of several hundred thousand demonstrators on Trafalgar Square, where a huge rally was held to protest the visit of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Kovic attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. On Sunday, August 24, 2008, the day before the convention began, Kovic spoke, then led thousands in a march against the war which ended with him saying, "In the city of Denver, we got welcomed home."
In a new introduction to his book, Born on the Fourth of July (1976), written in March 2005, Kovic stated, "I wanted people to understand. I wanted to share with them as nakedly and openly and intimately as possible what I had gone through, what I had endured. I wanted them to know what it really meant to be in a war, to be shot and wounded, to be fighting for my life on the intensive care ward, not the myth we had grown up believing. I wanted people to know about the hospitals and the enema room, about why I had become opposed to the war, why I had grown more and more committed to peace and nonviolence. I had been beaten by the police and arrested twelve times for protesting the war and I had spent many nights in jail in my wheelchair. I had been called a Communist and a traitor, simply for trying to tell the truth about what had happened in that war, but I refused to be intimidated." In 1989, on the last day of filming Born On The Fourth of July, Kovic presented actor Tom Cruise, who portrayed him in the movie, the original Bronze Star he had received, explaining to Cruise that he was giving him the medal as a gift "for his heroic performance".
Kovic lives in Redondo Beach, California, where he writes, paints, plays the piano, and gardens. He has never married, although he did have a relationship with Connie Panzarino (author of The Me in the Mirror).
- 1989 – Born on the Fourth of July - (co-screenwriter with Oliver Stone). Directed by Oliver Stone.
- Born on the Fourth of July – Autobiography of Ron Kovic
- GI Coffeehouses
- GI Underground Press – Military press produced without official approval or acceptance during the Vietnam War
- List of Croatian Americans
- List of peace activists
- Vietnam Veterans Against the War – Vietnam War era protest organization
- Brian Willson
- "Heroism Project - 1970s - Ron Kovic". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
- Vincent Canby (20 December 1989). "How an All-American Boy Went to War and Lost His Faith". The New York Times.
- "Best Screenplay – Motion Picture". Golden Globe Awards. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on September 29, 2006. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
- Moss, Nathaniel (1 January 1994). Ron Kovic: Antiwar Activist. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 9780791020760. Retrieved 1 September 2016 – via Google Books.
- Mogk, Marja Evelyn (2013). Different Bodies: Essays on Disability in Film and Television. McFarland. pp. 219–221. ISBN 978-0-7864-6535-4.
- "Ron Kovic". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
- "The Telegraph - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
- Gay, Kathlyn (2012). American Dissidents: An Encyclopedia of Activists, Subversives, and Prisoners of Conscience. ABC-CLIO. pp. 359–362. ISBN 978-1-59884-764-2.
- "AmGrunts". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
- "'Born on the Fourth of July' vet's account disputed by comrades". 3 July 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
- Moss, Nathaniel (1994). Ron Kovic: Antiwar Activist. Chelsea House Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7910-2076-0.
- "Congressman Challenges Sections of "Born on Fourth of July" Movie". AP NEWS.
- Gilmer, Tim (1 June 2003). "Ron Kovic Reborn".
- "March ends in peace". Denver Post. 27 August 2008.
- Chutkow, Paul (17 December 1989). "The Private War of Tom Cruise". Retrieved 20 December 2017 – via NYTimes.com.
- Ron Kovic: A Crippled Vet Born on the Fourth of July Is a New Breed of Yankee Doodle Dandy. People.
- Lewis, Andy (1 July 2016). "Bruce Springsteen Gives 'Born on the Fourth of July' New Foreword (Audio)". www.HollywoodReporter.com. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
Springsteen and Kovic have been friendly for more than 30 years and the B-side song on the "Born in the USA" single, "Shut Out the Light," was written by the Boss about Kovic.
- Funhaus (28 March 2019), Hottest Men In Hollywood - Dude Soup Podcast #219, retrieved 29 March 2019
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ron Kovic.|
- Ron Kovic at IMDb
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Kovic, Ron. "Born on the Fourth of July: The Long Journey Home", AlterNet, posted June 13, 2005.
- "Veterans Speak Out", truthout.org, video, November 14, 2005.
- Gilmer, Tim. "Ron Kovic Reborn", profile from the Independent Media Institute, June 20, 2003.
- CNN interview with Kovic: "Peace movement will be largest ever", January 17, 2003.
- "Ron Kovic Vietnam Veteran", Heroism Project profile.
- Kovic, Ron. "The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq", TruthDig.com, January 18, 2006.
- Kovic, Ron. "Breaking the Silence of the Night", TruthDig.com, October 10, 2006.
- Fanucci, Kenneth. "It's All Coming Together For Ron Kovic", S.F. Examiner, June 25, 1978.
- Eterovich, Adam S. "Croatians in California, 1849–1999", Ragusan Press, San Carlos, CA, 2000, p 600, ISBN 0-918660-98-X