Listen to New Voices on Studs Terkel our partnership with 826CHI-here! Read the Story



May 26, 2016|by Grace Radkins

Ron Kovic and Alan Light

Ron Kovic and Alan Light at the 1990 Academy Awards.

Thanks to Megan, one of our interns, for her post in honor of Memorial Day.

It’s late May, which means that Memorial Day is approaching--a time when we honor those who have served in the armed forces and sacrificed their lives for the United States. In order to recognize those who have sacrificed so much for this country, we are sharing the story of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War veteran who was wounded and paralyzed by an ambush in Vietnam. In this 1977 interview, Studs asks Kovic about his life and Kovic reads from his memoir Born on the Fourth of July, which was later made into an Academy-Award winning film starring Tom Cruise.  We realize that Studs' politics were rarely pro-war, but he honored and respected veterans, and that is what we would like to do in sharing this interview. Studs’ interview follows Kovic’s life from his childhood through the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Kovic discusses what made him join the Marines, the sacrifices he made for his country, and his experiences and insights after his service. Kovic’s story begins with his birth on the Fourth of July, a day that would each birthday reinforce his love for America. Ron’s mother and father both served in the Navy during World War II, and met each other during the war. Growing up as a patriotic child, he dreamed of joining the armed forces and fighting for America. His dreams came true in high school, when Marine Corps recruiters visited and inspired him to enlist in the Marines. Kovic was ready to give his best for his country, and speaks of his struggles through the challenges of Boot Camp. Kovic’s story takes a traumatic turn when he suffers an ambush during his service and is shot. The trauma continues when he is sent to a VA hospital, which is devastatingly underfunded and understaffed--take into account the broken pump that almost caused him to lose his leg. While his leg was not amputated, three-quarters of his body did become paralyzed. Although Kovic initially had reservations about publishing his memoir--it was incredibly traumatic for him to relive his ambush--he was inspired to action when he turned on the Mike Douglas Show and heard Douglas speaking of the lack of books documenting the Vietnam war. Kovic was called to action and created "Born on the Fourth of July-a memoir that beautifully describes Kovic’s dedicated service for the United States. We would like to use Studs’ interview with Ron Kovic to thank and honor those who have served for the United States and sacrificed their lives. In 1973, Studs spoke with Hunter S. Thompson about his bookFear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. In that interview, they listen to a recording of a veteran protesting at the Republican National Convention. That veteran was Ron Kovic (courtesy of KPFA). Photo by Alan Light.