At a party at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters last night, David Volk, the state treasurer of South Dakota, was slurping down an oyster from a huge ice tray full of oysters, clams and crab legs when he suddenly exclaimed, "I found a pearl!"
Indeed he had. It was a tiny thing, but full of enchantment. When the wonderment had died down and Volk had pocketed his find, he said he was in Washington with other members of the nationwide Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program for a training session.
The group, part of the federal volunteer agency ACTION, seeks to show that Vietnam vets are not psychos. Successful ones like Volk are trying to help their less fortunate former comrades in 38 cities to find jobs.
"There's a real camaraderie among Vietnam vets, and they're very willing to help one another," Volk said.
Ed Timperlake, national director of the effort, said, "The Vietnam generation is working inside the system very effectively."
Veterans Administration chief Harry N. Walters, Rep. Tom Ridge (R-Pa.) and Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-Ark.), of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, were on hand.
"This may be the most important intangible program yet devised to help the Vietnam veterans," Hammerschmidt said.
The group's New Mexico chief, Albuquerque attorney Jim Reichert, said, "We have a blind Indian artist who lost his eyesight in Vietnam and came home and has been sculpting from memory." Reichert said he had featured men like him in a "Profiles in Courage" program.
Ridge noted that yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, and that  years ago this morning, the so-called cease-fire went into effect across Indochina at 8 a.m. Saigon time.