By Ron Kovic / Original to ScheerPost
There are few individuals who leave such an indelible mark on American history through their unwavering commitment to truth as Daniel Ellsberg. As news of his declining health reverberates throughout all those who have followed his journey, Ron Kovic, the renowned Vietnam War veteran, activist and author, pens a heartfelt letter to his dear friend.
I have heard the news and I want to begin by first telling you what an honor it is to know you and call you my friend. Few people in my life have had as much impact as you have had on mine, from that very first day we met, over half a century ago, when I and my fellow Vietnam Veterans Against the War stood proudly by your side on the steps of the Federal Court House in Los Angeles on the first day of the Pentagon Papers trial, to that day several months later, as I lay in my hospital bed recovering from an illness at the VA Hospital in Long Beach, when I heard you were cleared of all charges and set free.
Many thoughts come to my mind as I think back to our friendship over the years. There was that local TV show we did together in Los Angeles that became quite contentious when the show’s host questioned our patriotism, and the time you visited me at my cottage in Northern California having just returned from your Harvard Class Reunion. It was wonderful to see you again and I remember how you gave me your Harvard Reunion Cap when I mentioned how much I admired it.
I still have that cap today, and each time I look at it, it reminds me of that special night. Later that evening, we had dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant in San Anselmo where you read to me passages from the manuscript of your soon to be published book, Secrets. There was my birthday on the 4th of July in the backyard of that house in Annendale, Virginia where you, Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, David Dellinger and Tony Russo spoke, making my birthday a birthday I would never forget.
As the years passed, you continued to inspire me and millions of others with your tireless activism and courageous commitment to peace and non-violence. There were the times I spent with you and Patricia, one in particular in Washington DC, after I had met with China’s Ambassador to the United States, Li Zhaoxing, and his staff at the Chinese Embassy after our country had “mistakenly bombed” the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. I had presented the ambassador with three dozen red roses and apologized for my country’s tragic error; something the leaders of our nation at the time seemed incapable of doing.
Later that night, over dinner and lighter conversation, you mentioned that you and Pat had gone to the movies that afternoon, and though I can’t remember the movie you saw, how excited you were, and how Pat said you loved going to the movie.
And then there was our last phone call a year ago when you excitedly shouted to Pat that I was on the phone, making me feel special. That was the last time we spoke.
Yesterday, I read your email of the great challenge that now lay before you, having just been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and been given only a few months to live, and your brave decision to forgo chemotherapy in order to live out your remaining days with your family, with dignity, and courage, just as you have done all of your life.
I miss you, my dear friend. TerriAnn joins me as well in wanting to let you know how much we think of you and Patricia and sincerely send you our prayers and thoughts. We often remember the night at Stanley Sheinbaum house when we talked and laughed and laughed until late. Oh, the times we have had!