Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 American film adaptation of the best selling autobiography of the same name by Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. The film therefore is an accurate description of the thoughts, beliefs and actions associated with both Vietnam veterans and the US population as a whole. The film depicts Kovic's life from joining the marine corps, following his actions during both his first and second tours of Vietnam during the 1960's to his return back home to the US after being wounded in action, leaving him permanently paralysed. The second half of the film portrays the reactions of individual's in the US during the Vietnam war and their actions and thoughts of US involvement in Vietnam. The film challenges the misconceptions of the war; as to why the US were fighting and who/what they were fighting.
The first half the film shows Kovic's enlistment in the marines and subsequent two tours in Vietnam. During his first tour, he mistakenly shoots one of his own men, which has a lasting affect on Kovic. During his second tour he is badly wounded, paralysed from the waist down (Jan 1968). Kovic notices that as he spends several months recovering at the Bronx Veterans Administration hospital, the hospital living conditions are deplorable: rats crawl freely on the floors, the staff is generally apathetic to their patients' needs, doctors visit the patients infrequently, drug use is rampant (among both the staff and patients), and equipment is too old and ill-maintained to be useful. He notices how little the US cares for veterans that have been wounded serving their country.
Kovic witnesses anti-war rallies and the burning of American flags in protest to the war in Vietnam by the American people, and becomes delusional with the thought process of the military (honour, devotion, patriotism and courage) and just wishes he had the use of his legs back. Kovic becomes belligerent and an alcoholic (highlighting the negative impact on Vietnam war veterans) and resentful to the fact that he cannot 'fit in' as a normal person. This is highlighted when meeting with old friends, but becoming separated when visiting a school due to the fact his wheelchair prevents him from getting very far on campus because of curbs and stairways, highlighting a lack of 'care' and empathy for disabled individuals.
Having become delusional towards the war in Vietnam (highlighted by arguments between several people regarding the war, if there was a God, due to the horrors witnessed towards civilians during the war etc), Kovic joins the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and travels to the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami. He did this in an attempt to raise awareness regarding his negative experiences in Vietnam and the VA hospital conditions, that the Vietnam war is wrong, and tells him that the Vietnamese people are a proud people fighting against the US for their independence, fueling rage from the surrounding Nixon supporters. His interview is cut short when guards eject him and his fellow vets from the hall and attempt to turn them over to the police.
The film is an excellent insight into the effects of the Vietnam war on the men who fought for their country. It also shows the poor attention and care that was given to it's soldiers after they had returned from the war (hospital conditions, attitudes of others towards war veterans). The films also gives excellent examples of the 'common' mans' attitudes towards the Vietnam war, expressing their displeasure of the combat and their protests and rallies in order to get that message across in an attempt to end the US's involvement in the war.