He joined the U.S. Marine Corps after high school. His injuries in the Vietnam War left him partially paralyzed, and he received both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his wartime bravery.
He was a speaker at the 1976 Democratic National Convention.
He was born in Wisconsin and raised in New York by an Irish mother and a Croatian father. In his later life, he settled in Redondo Beach, California.
He inspired the Bruce Springsteen song, "Shut Out the Light."