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Ron Kovic
Ron Kovik Photo /Wikimedia Commons,
commons.wikimedia.org

By Marshall Blesofsky
Long Beach, CA

“Born on the Forth of July” is a 1989 movie starring Tom Cruise. The screenplay for this movie is based on the autobiography of Ron Kovic and co-written by him. Ron Kovic was a gung-ho marine who volunteered to serve his country and, like the many Iraq and Afghanistan service people, he tried to “bring democracy to Vietnam.” On his second tour of duty 40 years ago, he was shot and paralyzed from his mid-chest down. He became and is an anti-war activist. 

Kovic talked on the anniversary of his wounding:

“…I was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a date that I can never forget, a day that was to change my life forever. Each year as the anniversary of my wounding in the war approached I would become extremely restless, experiencing terrible bouts of insomnia, depression, anxiety attacks and horrifying nightmares. I dreaded that day and what it represented, always fearing that the terrible trauma of my wounding might repeat itself all over again. It was a difficult day for me for decades and it remained that way until the anxieties and nightmares finally began to subside.”

Ron Kovic writes about his experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In Iraq alone, US forces have suffered 30,000 wounded and, of the one million who have served in Iraq, almost 50% are estimated to have a stress disorder. Who will take care of these returning veterans? Based on the past, efforts by the government to care for these people have been a failure. According to US government statistics, almost 25% of homeless people are veterans of past wars. How many are living marginal existences because of their war physical and psychological wounds we can only imagine. Kovic has recently spent time in the Long Beach California Veterans Administration Hospital as a patient. Not much had changed since the 1960s. According to Kovic, paralyzed Iraq vets experience overcrowding, lack of staffing, equipment breakdowns and lack of funding The conclusion is that our government has already proven it cannot care for those men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country.
Thomas Young
Thomas Young, who was wounded in Iraq.
Photo /Jeff Paterson, NOT IN OUR NAME
A contemporary Kovic is Thomas Young who grew up in Kansas City. He enlisted in the army after the attacks on 9/11 because he wanted to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan. He was sent to Iraq, instead. And five days after arriving there, he was shot in the chest and severely wounded. Thomas Young's story is told in a documentary film called “Body of War” by filmmaker Ellen Spiro and television host Phil Donahue.

The saga of this 24-year-old’s experience with his injuries, both physical and psychological, within the overwhelmed VA system is heart wrenching. Thomas Young becomes an advocate for wounded veterans and a peace activist. Most remarkable is the process of this veteran becoming aware and conscious of the economic and political system that makes war necessary. He is an example of the young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are becoming the leaders of a movement to profoundly change America. 

Recently Kovic addressed this issue, saying, “To speak out now and raise your voice against this policy, that’s what being an American is all about. That’s what patriotism is really all about. What is unpatriotic is allowing this all to happen—continuing to allow this administration to move our country into this dangerous situation that can only have consequences that I don’t even want to think about in the end.” Kovic writes, “We must break this cycle of violence and begin to move in a different direction; war is not the answer, violence is not the solution. A more peaceful world is possible.”

Marshall Blesofsky is a physician assistant, educator and producer of People’s Tribune TV, which is seen in Long Beach and Signal Hill, California.





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