The government took the best years of my life away from me and millions of other young men. I just think they’re lucky I wrote a book instead of buying a gun.
It took Ron Kovic seven years to go from gung-ho Marine to paraplegic veteran protesting the Vietnam war from his wheelchair. It took him only two months to write his angry book about it, Born on the Fourth of July. Described by the New York Times as “the most personal and honest testament” yet on the war, it has been sold to the movies for $150,000 (with Al Pacino in mind as the star).
Ex-sergeant Kovic tells of accidentally killing one of his own men, of his unit maiming a group of Vietnamese children, then weeping as they carried the victims to a helicopter. He describes being wounded at the DMZ and coming home in 1968 “the sexless man…the man who can’t make children.”
Because of the publicity given his opposition to the war, Kovic was chosen to second the nomination of draft resister Fritz Efaw for Vice-President at the Democratic National Convention.
Kovic was born July 4,1946 in Ladysmith, Wis. One of six children of an A & P clerk, he was raised on Long Island, where he wrestled on the varsity at Massapequa High. He joined the Marines the year he graduated, 1964. By 1971 he had become active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War. During one demonstration he was thrown from his wheelchair and beaten by Los Angeles undercover police. In 1972 he fell in love with a woman lawyer in the movement. When she ended their romance seven months later, Kovic says he became suicidal. “I felt the same pain that I felt when I lost my body.”
The book has helped purge some of his fury at being crippled “for nothing.” With his tax-free $1,750 monthly disability check, he and a new girlfriend, Connie Panzarino, herself in a wheelchair because of a neuromuscular birth defect, have rented an apartment in Hempstead. “I’d like to create three or four more good books in the next 10 years,” Kovic says. “I won’t write silly trash.”