Ronald Lawrence Kovic (born July 4, 1946)[1] is an American anti-war activist, author, 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 film of the same name which starred actor Tom Cruise as Kovic, and was co-written by Kovic and directed by Oliver Stone.[2]

Ron Kovic
Ron Kovic at an anti-war rally in Los Angeles, California, on October 12, 2007.
Ronald Lawrence Kovic

July 4, 1946 (1946-07-04) (age 78)
  • Activist
  • author
  • Marine
Military career
AllegianceUnited States
BranchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1964–1968
ConflictsVietnam War

Kovic received the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay on January 20, 1990, 22 years to the day that he was wounded in Vietnam, and was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category.[3]

Early life


Kovic was born in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, the second of six children[1] of Patricia Ann Lamb (January 6, 1923 – June 30, 2006) and Eli Thomas Kovic (August 3, 1920 – May 1, 1999).[4] Eli Thomas Kovic met Lamb while serving in the Navy during the Second World War after both enlisted shortly after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Eli was of Croatian ancestry. Patricia was of Irish ancestry. She was a housewife.[5] Kovic grew up in Massapequa, New York, and graduated in 1964 from Massapequa High School on Long Island.[6]

Military service in Vietnam


Kovic volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War, 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[7] 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.[8]

On January 20, 1968, while leading a reconnaissance force of battalion scouts[9] 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,[10] 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.[8] 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 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.[11]

Post-Vietnam activism

Kovic (left) leading other disabled veterans after ending their 17-day hunger strike, March 1974

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.[5]

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.[8]

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 the 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 Cambodian Civil War for Pacific News Service.[8]

On the night of July 15, 1976, at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City Kovic spoke from the podium seconding the nomination of draft resister Fritz Efaw for Vice President of the United States.[citation needed]

In 1990, Kovic considered running for a seat in the House of Representatives against California Republican Bob Dornan.[12] Kovic ultimately decided not to run.[13]

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.[8]

Since 2000


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."[14]

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,[15] explaining to Cruise that he was giving him the medal as a gift "for his heroic performance".[15]

Kovic lives in Redondo Beach, California, where he writes, paints, plays the piano, and gardens. He had a relationship with Connie Panzarino (author of The Me in the Mirror).[16]



Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Shut Out the Light" after reading Kovic's memoir and then meeting him.[17]

Military Awards: Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Heart, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal.

Personal life


Kovic is the uncle of internet personality Adam Kovic.[18]


Kovic at the 62nd Academy Awards
  • 1989 – Born on the Fourth of July - (co-screenwriter with Oliver Stone). Directed by Oliver Stone.[15] Kovic also has a brief cameo appearance in the film as a wheelchair-using soldier in the opening parade scene, who flinches as firecrackers explode, something Tom Cruise's Kovic will also do later in the film.

See also



  1. ^ a b "Heroism Project - 1970s - Ron Kovic". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  2. ^ Vincent Canby (20 December 1989). "How an All-American Boy Went to War and Lost His Faith". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Best Screenplay – Motion Picture". Golden Globe Awards. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on September 29, 2006. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  4. ^ Moss, Nathaniel (1 January 1994). Ron Kovic: Antiwar Activist. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 9780791020760. Retrieved 1 September 2016 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Mogk, Marja Evelyn (2013). Different Bodies: Essays on Disability in Film and Television. McFarland. pp. 219–221. ISBN 978-0-7864-6535-4.
  6. ^ Lawrence A, Tritle (2000). From Melos to My Lai : war and survival (1st ed.). London/New York: Routledge. p. 50. ISBN 0203251768.
  7. ^ "The Telegraph - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e 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.
  9. ^ "AmGrunts". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  10. ^ Jardine, Jeff (3 July 2012). "'Born on the Fourth of July' vet's account disputed by comrades". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  11. ^ Moss, Nathaniel (1994). Ron Kovic: Antiwar Activist. Chelsea House Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7910-2076-0.
  12. ^ "Congressman Challenges Sections of "Born on Fourth of July" Movie". AP NEWS.
  13. ^ Gilmer, Tim (1 June 2003). "Ron Kovic Reborn".
  14. ^ "March ends in peace". Denver Post. 27 August 2008.
  15. ^ a b c Chutkow, Paul (17 December 1989). "The Private War of Tom Cruise". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2017 – via
  16. ^ Ron Kovic: A Crippled Vet Born on the Fourth of July Is a New Breed of Yankee Doodle Dandy. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  17. ^ Lewis, Andy (1 July 2016). "Bruce Springsteen Gives 'Born on the Fourth of July' New Foreword (Audio)". 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.
  18. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Funhaus (28 March 2019), Hottest Men In Hollywood - Dude Soup Podcast #219, retrieved 29 March 2019