Operation Last Patrol
Posted to www.marxmail.org on November 16, 2005
With the November 22nd DVD release of Frank Cavestani’s 1972 “Operation Last Patrol,” a landmark
documentary about antiwar
Just as Cindy Sheehan galvanized the conscience of a nation
by challenging a war waged in the name of lies, so did the caravan of veterans
who made their way from California to Miami. Indeed, in the final scene of Cavestani’s film, where we see the paraplegic Ron Kovic inside the convention hall denouncing the war to the
obvious dismay of the cops and Secret Service agents surrounding him, we are
reminded of how Cindy Sheehan spoiled another party at Bush’s ranch in
“Operation Last Patrol” follows Kovic and his comrades as they wend their way East. The most gripping moments obviously involve Kovic, who was played by Tom Cruise in Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July.” As he sits in the driver’s seat of a specially prepared automobile that can be controlled from the steering wheel, he tells the interviewer about his narrow escape from death on the Vietnamese battlefield. A bullet severed his spine and left him utterly without feeling or mobility beneath his chest.
Cavestani’s film predates the
publication of Kovic’s 1976 memoir that details his
evolution from a gung-ho Marine recruit out of
Although Cavestani is obviously a
political person, this film is not a dry, didactic exercise. Oddly enough, it
has the same kind of ‘road’ lyricism as “Easy Rider.” In a gesture that
expressed their disaffection from the “straight” culture that seemed to have
made the war possible, the
This film is an extremely important addition to our cultural
and historical heritage. It would be of immense value to high school or college
classes studying the
Ron Kovic’s memoir has been released in paperback from Akashic Publishers this year with a new introduction that concludes as follows:
administration seems to have learned some very different lessons than we did
Instead of being intimidated or frightened, many of us became more outraged and more determined than ever to stop these ignorant, arrogant men and women who never saw the things we saw, never had to grieve over the loss of their bodies or the bodies of their sons and daughters, never had to watch as so many friends and fellow veterans were destroyed by alcoholism and drugs, homelessness, imprisonment, neglect and rejection, torture, abandonment and betrayal, in the painful aftermath of the war. These leaders have never experienced the tears, the dread and rage, the feeling that there is no God, no country, nothing but the wound, the horrifying memories, the shock, the guilt, the shame, the terrible injustice that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and over two million Vietnamese.
We had to act. We had to speak.
I am no longer the
28-year-old man, six years returned from the war in
I have learned to
forgive my enemies and forgive myself. It has been very difficult to heal from
the war while living in
I have been given an opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, an entirely different vision. I now believe I have suffered for a reason, and in many ways I have found that reason in my commitment to peace and nonviolence. My life has been a blessing in disguise, even with the pain and great difficulty that my physical disability continues to bring. It is a blessing to be able to speak on behalf of peace, to be able to reach such a great number of people.
I saw firsthand what our government's terrible policy had wrought. I endured; I survived and understood. The one gift I was given in that war was an awakening. I became a messenger, a living symbol, an example, a man who learned that love and forgiveness are more powerful than hatred, who has learned to embrace all men and women as my brothers and sisters. No one will ever again be my enemy, no matter how hard they try to frighten and intimidate me. No government will ever teach me to hate another human being. I have been given the task of lighting a lantern, ringing a bell, shouting from the highest rooftops, warning the American people and citizens everywhere of the deep immorality and utter wrongness of this approach to solving our problems, pleading for an alternative to this chaos and madness, this insanity and brutality. We must change course.
I truly feel that this beautiful world has given me back so much more than it has taken from me. So many others that I knew are gone, and gone way too young. I am grateful to be alive after all these years and all that I've been through. I am thankful for every day. Life is so precious.