Ron Kovic: In the Presence of My Enemy: A Reflection on War and Forgiveness





[Ron Kovic served two tours of duty as a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. In combat on Jan. 20, 1968, he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He became one of the best-known peace activists among the veterans of the war.]

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. (Psalms 23:5)

As this, the 43rd anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, and I once again try to find meaning in that day and the days which were to follow, my thoughts return to the northern bank of the Cua Viet River on January 20, 1968. It is a day that will change my life forever.

I am medevaced from the battlefield to the intensive care ward in Da Nang, Vietnam. For the next several days I struggle with everything inside me to live. The dead and dying are everywhere. I am in and out of morphine every four hours. I awaken to the screams of the wounded all around me—young men like myself, 19, 20-year-olds. I am told by a doctor that I will never walk again, that I will be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

Still I am grateful to be alive, to still be breathing. I dream of my hometown, of my mother, my father and my backyard where I had played as a boy. All I want to do now is survive, to get out of this place somehow and return home. I completely lose track of time; I don’t know if it is day or night. They keep bringing in the wounded and carting out the dead....



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