He is probably the most famous person you have never heard of. In his lifetime, he has earned both a Purple Heart and an Academy Award nomination. He was the inspiration for Jane Fonda's film Coming Home. Bruce Springsteen and Tom Paxton both wrote songs for him, and he was played by Tom Cruise in a film. His name is Ron Kovic. Born on July 4, 1946 in Wisconsin, Kovic began his fascinating career in the Marine Corps, which led him to serve overseas in the Vietnam War. On January 20, 1968, Kovic was shot during battle and endured injuries which rendered him permanently paralyzed. Though his physical condition left him wheelchair-bound, Kovic has become, in the forty years since, an intimidating and fearless adversary of war. With over a dozen arrests to his name, Kovic is one of the most courageous and inspirational protestors and anti-war activists of our time. Once, he even organized a group of handicapped veterans in a 17-day hunger strike to negotiate better treatment of vets who return to the U.S. following deployment. He recounted his incredible story in his memoir, Born on the Fourth of July, which later became an Oliver Stone film that garnered both a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award nomination. Today, Kovic can still often be found at the front of the picket lines, protesting against the war in Iraq or demanding more just treatment of soldiers and veterans. A selfless and extraordinarily dedicated activist, Kovic has said that though his handicap has been a tragedy in his life, it has also been "a blessing in disguise" because he has been able to touch the lives of so many and use his story to inspire the world around him.
"My life has been a blessing in disguise, even with the pain and great difficulty that my physical disability continues to bring. It is a blessing to speak on behalf of peace, to be able to reach such a great number of people."
"War is not the answer. Violence is not the solution. A more peaceful world is possible."