Sam Brown was in the VA Hospital on Saturday morning, a huge black man with yellowing eyes that slowly swept the floor as he waited for his number to be flashed on the patient billboard. There was a pained look on his face; his lips were taut and parted, his eyes puffy, and his head rested heavily in the palm of his hand.
Big, sad Sam Brown, 29 - his discontent was as overwhelming as his 6-foot-6, 290-pound frame. He had earned a football scholarship and was hoping to be a first round draft choice back in 1968 when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam instead.
Now, he says he can't run as well anymore because some bones are missing from his right foot. An army supply truck ran over it.
Now, seven years after his return to Washington from tiny villages who names he cannot pronounce, Brown has recieve word of a Carter administration plan to help him, and others like him.
The plan involves spending $1.3 billion to find both private and public service jobs for more than 200,000 of the nation's 558,000 unemployed Vietnam-era veterans. Brown admits that he is reluctant to get excited about such plan, because high hopes may lead to disappointment which he can not handle just yet.
It is not Brown's crushed foot that brings him to the VA almost weekly, it is his nerves. "My nerves are bad," the big man says. "Don't that sound silly?" He does not turn to face who he is talking to, and mumbles as if trying not to move his lips.
I had it made, man," he says softly. "I know it then, boom - you know, just like that.
"You don't have any idea what its like to go away and come back and be forgotten - by your friends as well as the people who sent you away in the first place," Tyson said.
"I wanted to come back to D.S. so bad I can't explain it," said Quincy Thurston, 27. "I never knew what all that fighting was about - never had time to think about it. Too much thinking and you was dead.
"I didn't know what being was until I got back here," Brown says, his eye lids closing. "You could always count on somebody over there, right? But the real world ain't like that. Nobody gives a good goddam."
According to Labor Secretary F. Ray Marshall, President Carter is most concerned about the plight of the disabled and black umemployed veteran, referred to by Marshall as "the hardest hit of all." There is about a 20 per cent unemployment rate among younger black veterans, compared with 18 per cent for all Vietnam veterans.
Let's just say I'm interested, but leary," said Tyrone Tyson, 28, a Vietnam veteran who recently has been hospitalized at the VA following an auto accident. "I remember 1972. They were giving the vets jobs then, too. Yeah, I didn't get one of those either."
As Tyson explains, "When I got back, I just didn't feel like working. I felt I was due a rest, that unemployment was deserved. I had been out hunting and killing men. That was my job. And I was being hunted too.I just couldn't deal with another job, not right then.
"My first back I get robbed. I was walking down the streets and some little punk types put a gun to my head and rob me. After being so close to thr brothers in the Nam. I just couldn't understand it. It hurt to see them trying to outslick you; really turned me off," Thurston said.
"Coming back was like Christmas," Tyson said. "It was great for a day."
Tyson has got several jobs since returning from Vietnam in 1969. But he has lost each of them, and almost his life, because of an accident that occured in Vietnam.
"I killed two men," he said acknowledging his own remark with the nod of his head. "Yep, two of them. It really didn't bother me either. You know, none of that sleepless nights stuff. Then, one day, were approaching some North Vietnamese. I was carrying the mortar - then I had a seizure. Had never had nothing like that before . . ."
Two days after taking a job at a clothing store on Ninth and E streets NW, Tyson had another seizure and a few days later he was fired. "And you know what I hear that (fellow salesman) tell the manager: 'I always knew there was something weird about that guy.' You heard me? Isn't that awful?"
"I know those things are caused by that accident in Vietnam and my trying to suppress it all," he says. "But what can I do? I sure don't want to stay shut up in here and miss anything that they (the Carter administration) might do."
Tyson was hospitalized following an auto accident that occurend when he has a seizure while driving.The wreck that follow snapped his spine, crushed a leg, smashed the other ankle and lacerated his head.
"I get 10 per cent compensation for seizure," Tyson said. "That comes to $38 a month."
The plan announced last week by Marshall would focus first on veterans like Tyson, with a $100 million effort to persuade private business to create 50,000 to 60,000 new jobs and training slots.
A $20 million "outreach" effort is aimed at placing disabled vets in employment agencies in the 100 largest cities where they will concentrate on identifying other disabled veterans in need of services.
"Yeah, I could use a job," Brown says. "But what kind of jobs are they talking about? Cooks and night guards. "He smiled briefly.
"It won't do any good if The Man don't understand the problems of the vets. If you keep firing us, then we're not going to keep trying."