Ron Kovic: Where is the Vietnam War Veteran Now?

Image Credit: CinemaLibre/YouTube

The 1989 film, ‘Born on the Fourth of July,’ tells the biographical life story of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War Veteran who became an anti-war activist after his second tour as a US Marine. The film chronicles Ron’s life as he makes the decision to serve his country by enlisting in the army and shipping off to Vietnam to participate in the war. However, after sustaining a grave injury that leaves him paralyzed from the chest down, the veteran faces the reality of war’s trauma and destruction. Once he’s able to come to terms with his own demons, Ron confronts the root of the problem and begins advocating for anti-war sentiments. After learning about Kovic’s lived reality brought to the big screen, fans must find themselves intrigued by the veteran’s journey, inviting interest in where life has taken him since.

Ron Kovic Became an Anti-War Activist in Vietnam’s Aftermath

Ronald Lawrence Kovic’s journey in the American Army began shortly after his high school graduation. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1964 and was deployed to Vietnam as a volunteer a year later, in December 1965. Even though his first deployment came with many complications, his belief in preventing Communism through war persevered. As such, he volunteered for a second tour and promptly returned to the warzone. During his second tour, Kovic saw many more atrocities of war and sustained a gunshot that left him paralyzed on January 20, 1968. Although the military awarded him with accolades, like the Bronze Star with a “V” and the Purple Heart, the former soldier’s grueling recovery in underfunded Veterans Administration hospitals only worsened matters.

Ron Kovic//Image Credit: Open Road Media/YouTube

As a result, Kovic’s harrowing first-hand experiences with war and its aftermath compelled him to advocate for peace and become a member of the non-profit Vietnam Veterans Against the War organization. During this time, he became a prominent peace activist, collecting twelve protest-related arrests. Notably, he was involved in the disruption of the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami. As per reports, he talked to a reporter during President Richard Nixon’s speech and said, “I’m a Vietnam veteran. I gave America my all, and the leaders of this government threw me and others away to rot in their VA hospitals. What’s happening in Vietnam is a crime against humanity.”

Furthermore, Kovic also orchestrated a two-and-a-half-week hunger strike in Wilshire Boulevard at Alan Cranston, a then-US Senator’s office. He and other disabled veterans conducted this strike in March 1974 with the motive of achieving better treatment of injured and disabled veterans. Four years later, in 1976— a year after the end of the Vietnam War— he attended the Democratic Convention, held in New York, to deliver a speech.

Ron Kovic’s Autobiography Went on to Become an Oscar-winning Film

In 1976, Ron Kovic published his first book, ‘Born on the Fourth of July,’ where he presented a biographical account of his experiences as a Vietnam War-vet-turned-peace-activist. The book went on to become a New York Times bestseller and garnered the author much critical and public acclaim. Eventually, as the book caught Hollywood’s attention, Kovic collaborated with Filmmaker Oliver Stone to co-write a screenplay that became the Tom Cruise-helmed Oscar-winning film.

Ron Kovic//Image Credit: Entertainment Tonight/YouTube

Thus, Krovic played an instrumental role in the adaptation of his life story and was so pleased with the results that he gave Cruise his Bronze medal as a token of his appreciation for the actor’s “heroic” undertaking of his character. In the movie about the veteran’s life, the real-life veteran even sported a cameo, leaving an imprint on his cinematic legacy. Krovic’s life reportedly changed in numerous ways after the film’s release, including an increase in his popularity among the general public. Moreover, he also won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay in Motion Picture, along with an Oscar nomination.

Afterward, Krovic continued building on his legacy with his literary endeavors. Notably, he came out with ‘Hurricane Street’ in 2016, which detailed the activist’s experience during the 1974 hunger strike. The same year, the book, ‘Born on the Fourth of July,’ also saw its 40th anniversary and received a special edition launch for which Bruce Springsteen provided a foreword. Reportedly, the singer-songwriter had been friends with Kovic for a long time and even wrote a song, ‘Shut Out the Light’ about him.

Ron Kovic Protested the Gulf War and Advocated for Peace

Even after the end of the Vietnam War, Ron Kovic maintained his anti-war beliefs and advocated for the same during the 1990s Gulf War, fought between the 42-country coalition led by the United States and Iraq. In 1990 and 1991, the veteran participated in numerous demonstrations and protests, voicing anti-war sentiments. Likewise, in 1999, Kovic returned to the international public eye after America bombed Belgrade, Yugoslavia’s Chinese embassy, as a result of reported faulty intelligence. After the incident, the peace activist had a meeting with Li Zhaoxing, the Chinese Ambassador to the US of the time, expressing his condolences with the symbolic presentation of two dozen red roses. In 2003, he also participated in a London-based protest march before the start of the Iraq War.

Ron Kovic Published Another Biographical Book in 2024

Recently, Ron Kovic has resurfaced in cultural conversation with the release of his latest book, ‘A Dangerous Country: An American Elegy.’ In the February 2024 release, the author shares incredibly intimate diary entries from his time as a soldier during the Vietnam War. The entries start before his second deployment and go into significant detail about his experiences. At the same time, the book reveals traumatic events that the author hadn’t felt prepared to share before.

Ron Kovic//Image Credit: SBMSTeenPress/YouTube

“[In the past] I would look at the diary – but it was painful and a bit traumatic,” Kovic shared in a conversation with Easy Reader & Peninsula. “I would have anxiety attacks and nightmares after reading what I did. So, I was very careful about going back to it. But I held onto it. I just wanted to forget it. Now I feel a distance. I could not have written this book ten years ago or five years ago. I wasn’t ready to expose that yet.” As such, the book also presents a story about healing and working toward redemption.

During the book’s promotion, Kovic has also found himself addressing various questions about his opinions on the current political landscape. He retains a peace-driven stance on politics— both international and national— when speaking about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Condemning Hamas’ actions as well as Israel’s response, he said, “The war has got to stop now. As empathetic as I am to Israeli families, [Benjamin] Netanyahu and his government’s response is way over the top.”

Ron Kovic//Image Credit: CinemaLibre/YouTube

Furthermore, Kovic also discussed America’s involvement, saying, “[And] The bombs are coming from us. We get involved in far too many conflicts. If I were to speak, I would talk about divestment; they should talk about [defense contractors]. Are these American cluster bombs being used? What weapons are from which companies?” Consequently, he has shared he doesn’t support either Joe Biden or Donald Trump for the upcoming 2024 presidential campaign.

“In good conscience, I can’t support either one of the presidential candidates,” Kovic said. “Both [would be] contributing weapons of war, bombs, to both of these conflicts [The Russo-Ukrainian War and Israel-Palestine conflict].” Outside of Kovic’s professional life as a peace activist and author, he prefers to keep his current personal life relatively private. As a result, he sports no official online presence on social media platforms. Currently, in his late 70s, he’s in an eighteen-year-long relationship with his girlfriend, TerriAnn Ferren, and resides in Redondo Beach, where he has been living for the past 23 years.

Read More: Born on the Fourth of July: Is Donna Based on Ron Kovic’s Real Friend?