I have to say, I truly enjoyed reading this book. It put the life of a veteran into perspective. Kovic wrote this book for a reason, to show everyone the truth of what happened after Vietnam. He did not sugar-coat anything; sometimes people may wonder why Kovic wrote about a specific thing in his book but he was simply writing about his life and what it was like. I thought about why Kovic would periodically switch from first person to third person throughout the book. I think he did this because writing in first person, he is recalling everything but when he writes in third person, he can sit back and observe his life, being somewhat of a third/outside party to the story. Maybe he wrote in third person so he would not be so overwhelmed by the recollection of his experiences; writing in third person gave his emotions a break from remembering the awful and disheartening events in his life.
As I read, I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Kovic. He was paralyzed from his chest down. He was helpless. . . relying on other people for support. Kovic had no control over what happened to him and because of his injury, his entire future was affected. I could not even imagine the emotions Kovic felt, emotions such as helplessness and defeat and I am sure he wanted to just die some days, always referring to himself as a “half-dead corpse.” When Kovic went to Mexico to the Village, where other veterans would go to get away, it was sad how to see how much Kovic desired companionship. I think because of his injury, he felt useless and by finding companionship, maybe Kovic thought it would mask his injury, giving him a sense of worth and purpose in life. When I read about the parade and how Kovic and a fellow soldier were involved I was a bit surprised at the public’s reaction. The two officers who had gone to pick Kovic and the other soldier up had said that the town was so proud of the soldiers, deeming them heroes. The town’s reaction though did not seem so warm and welcoming. Kovic recalls there being silence as their car drove through the streets, with no one waving or clapping. . . just silence. Were the people just overcome with shock or surprise that they did not clap or wave?? Or was there another reason? I also wondered why Eddie Dugan and Ron Kovic were not given the opportunity to speak at the parade. This was yet another thing that made Kovic seem insignificant. He made the comment that “they had been talking like they knew everything, like he and Eddie didn’t know how to speak for themselves because there was something wrong now with both of them.” (Page 111) The officers and speakers at the parade probably had not seen anything like what Kovic saw and they were speaking as if they knew it all, as if they had experienced Vietnam firsthand but in reality, they knew nothing compared to what Kovic knew.
I thought it was great that Kovic decided to attend college. I think it may have been a good way for him to preoccupy his mind, even though he ended up not staying in school very long. When Kovic broke his leg, I was again shocked at the treatment in the VA hospital. I thought maybe the hospital would be better this time. (I’m not sure why I thought that. . . wishful thinking possibly??) The hospital treatment was awful. It was far from sanitary and no one seemed to care that these veterans endured this kind of treatment. Kovic asked for simple things, like receiving a bath or for someone for “the vomit to be wiped up.” (Page 131) How nasty is that. . . . to be unbathed in a hospital of all places with vomit around you?? And the thing that gets me is that it did not seem to bother any of the nurses or doctors. The way the veterans were treated by the nurses/orderlies was saddening. these men need to be built up and encouraged but are not even treated as human beings and probably not even viewed as human beings either. I couldn’t believe it when the orderly brought breakfast to Kovic and called him “Seventeen” making him just a number, not even acknowledging his name. Kovic’s hospital care was awful but during this hospital visit, I think we see why the veterans are treated the way they are. Kovic recalls the orderly “taunting” him when Kovic is screaming for someone while in the hospital and the orderly says in response to Kovic’s statement of how he is a Vietnam veteran, “Vietnam don’t mean nothing to me or any of these other people.” (Page 133) Clearly being a veteran meant nothing and although Kovic made a greater sacrifice than any of the hospital staff could imagine, it made no difference.
I was so incredibly angry when I read about Kovic’s anti-war protesting in Los Angeles. The way the officers treated him was abominable. Could they not tell that Kovic was paralyzed and unable to move?? He tried to tell them but they simply ignored him, too wrapped up in calling Kovic a “traitor” and cursing at him. Kovic did not put up a fight when they were trying to arrest him, yet the officers used such great force.
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