After being released from the hospital, Kovic returned home to his family. He was in the town parade, discovering that many of the town’s boys were dead or injured. He didn’t really feel like the hero the speakers called him, and he felt that many had no idea what they were talking about. In trying to deal with his disability and loss of masculinity, he spent the summer in Mexico at a home of others like him. He went to whorehouses often, hoping for someone to love him, to experience feeling again.
Kovic went back home, attended the university, and eventually got an apartment of his own. While practicing leg stretches, as he hoped to walk again with braces, he shattered his thighbone. He spent six months in a VA hospital under unbelievable and completely unacceptable conditions. He was ignored, left in his own filth for days, treated with broken down machines, and sometimes ridiculed. We had read about poor VA hospital conditions, but this is the first first-hand account. It was shocking. Was this supposed to be one of the improved hospitals we read about?
When he was released from the hospital he went back to the university and started to become involved in war protests, which he had previously been cautious about, only being an observer. Kovic began giving speeches at schools and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War, where he felt comforted and accepted by his fellow veterans. At one non-violent protest he was beaten by the police, including one that had been disguised as a veteran, and held overnight.
After this he retreated to a little house near the beach with an intention to write. He suffered from depression, isolation, nightmares, and had a difficult with people. At one point he had planned to marry a woman with two children, mostly because he didn’t want to be alone for the rest of his life. He attended another protest during Nixon’s acceptance speech, where he managed to get into the Convention Center with a few other wheelchair-bound veterans. He talked to one newsman with a live feed for a moment, and the vets shouted when Nixon began his speech. One man spit on Kovic, calling him a traitor, and they were taken out of the room.
The last chapter of the book covers the bits of information about Kovic’s time in Vietnam that he often referred to throughout the book. The corporal from Georgia, the kids, and the night he was wounded. The corporal was shot by him, his first kill, and he was guilt-ridden. It was nothing like the movies where the good guys only killed the bad guys. He was given an opportunity to redeem himself, he felt, as a scout leader. One mission ended in the Marines shooting up a hut full of children and old men, which was extremely difficult to read. These two events led him to become reckless with his life. He wanted to be wounded and sent home, but not killed. On that fateful night he took dangerous risks, standing out in the open and not backing off as soon as his leg was shot. He was shot through the shoulder and paralyzed, leaving more than half of his body essentially dead. I felt it was very appropriate to end the book like this, with the moments that completely changed his life forever. I think that though the book is rather depressing in many ways, there is a sense of hope. The war may have killed Ron Kovic body in many ways, but it didn’t kill his spirit, though he felt like it had at many times. He turned his disability into words and actions to help stop the war that was harming so many Americans in so many ways.