The "For Sale" sign is planted deeply in the Oxon Hill lawn, and the car parked in front of the house has Michigan plates. Like so many others who graduated last week from Georgetown University Law School, Joyce and John Todd are getting ready to pull up stakes and seek their fortunes.
The Todd's fortunes lie in Rochester, Mich., where they both grew up. They are moving back this week, law degrees in hand. By next month, John Todd will be practicing law and teaching political science at Michigan Christian College, and his wife will be serving as a prosecutor for the Oakland County district attorney's office.
But when the Todds head onto the Beltway, Joyce Todd will be driving.
Her husband is almost totally blind as the result of a wound suffered during the Vietnam War. An Army helicopter gunship pilot, he was caught in a 1969 firefight near the Cambodian border and was shot in the face with a .50-caliber anti-aircraft bullet. It destroyed his nose and left cheek and most of his vision.
After seven bouts of plastic surgery and three corneal transplants over the last decade, John Todd's face is much less disfigured than it was, and he can make out shapes and colors.
"I can read the big type that says 'Washington Post' on the front page," he says. "But I can't read the headline right underneath it."
So how in the world did John Todd make it through law school, where spending half one's life reading is assumed? How has Todd functioned as the father of a 4-year-old daughter, Lacey? How has he summoned the emotional wherewithal to learn how to type and to plead the case of the men he calls "the forgotten guys I served with"?
By reminding himself, John Todd says, that the decision to fly into the bullets that nearly killed him was conscious and was his own.
"I chose to engage the target," he said. "I could see a lot of bullets coming up, but I'd seen that before. That was what I did. I was a pilot. That was my job.
"The young enlisted draftee-type of guy . . . had no idea when he was told to go behind a particular tree that there was a booby trap there that was going to blow his leg off. It was much tougher for those guys.
"But me? I'm so thankful just to have a brain, just to be alive. A couple of inches the other way, and it wouldn't even have been an issue. In a sense, it took a .50-caliber bullet to turn my life around."
And it took Joyce Todd.
She was a middle-level CIA bureaucrat six years ago when a cousin asked if she'd like to be escorted by a tall, dark stranger to a state dinner President Nixon wash hosting for South Vietnamese President Thieu.
"It was a blind date," says John Todd. "If you'll pardon the pun."
The cousin made it clear in advance that Todd was a member of the White House speakers' bureau and was defending Nixon's Vietnamization policy on talk shows and panels all over the country. "That meant she wasn't allowed to kick Thieu in the shins," John Todd recalled, with a wry grin.
Evidently, Joyce Todd restrained herself. The Todds were married four months after their first date.
But not without misgivings. Joyce Todd supported Nixon's Vietnam policy, but she had never been that close to anyone who was carrying it out. Now she was proposing to spend the rest of her life with a man who, by his own admission, was obsessed with the war - and seriously handicapped because of it.
"The only reservation I had was something my mother pointed out," said Joyce Todd, who, like her husband, is 32. "She asked if his handicap might have an effect on our marriage in the future. She wanted me to avoid any hindrance." But so far, so good, Joyce said.
The same is true of relations between 4-year-old Lacey Todd and her father.
One recent day, he and Lacey were discussing future careers. She mused that she might like to be a pilot.
"I said, 'Yeah, Lacey, you can be a pilot if you want to.' But she looked at me very seriously and said, 'Oh, no, I don't want to get a hurt eye.'"
Occasionally, too, Lacey complains that "I only tell her stories, I never read her any," said Todd. "I think it's beginning to dawn on her that I'm different."
John Todd was plenty different during his three years at Georgetown Law. Exams had to be administered orally. Getting downtown to court was a constant problem. Known to be a "hawk," Todd was sometimes shown less than perfect respect by some "dovish" classmates, although by and large he says he was treated "very fairly."
Finally, however, he graduated - not cum laude like Joyce, just "cum diploma." But John Todd ranked as one of the top courtroom performers in the class - with the help of Joyce and another young woman, who were paid by the Veterans' Administration to read to Todd so he could get through.
Indeed, law, not Vietnam, is now John Todd's obsession.
"The biggest marriage arguments we've had are about Supreme Court cases," says his wife.
John Todd had bigger arguments with the Nixon White House. He agreed to speak on behalf of its Vietnamization policy "because I wanted to be part of the debate. I wanted to defend the American soldier's name. We weren't war criminals."
He resigned after two years, however, when he perceived himself as being used to drum up "crowds" carrying placards saying how great Nixon was."
Todd was recruited into the White House speakers' bureau by Charles Colson, Nixon's famed political odds-and-ends man, who first heard of Todd when the wounded pilot formed Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace in 1971.
A gifted speaker with a voice like hot-buttered rum, Todd was soon the "designated hawk" on the talk show circuit. He debated the Rennie Davises and Jerry Rubins, and he was a star witness before the platform committee at the 1972 Republican National Convention.
Todd says he was never paid by the White House or the Committee to Re-Elect the President, however.
"They tried, but I didn't need the money. I was getting $900 (a month) in disabled veterans' checks. Besides, money was never the point," he said. "Honor was."
It is a tossup whether three years as a law student or 10 years as a medical patient was the bigger grind, Todd says. But both are behind him and his wife and daughter. "We are going to go to Michigan, where she is going to have a son," says Todd, pointing a good-natured finger at his wife.
"You know, I really don't have any personal regrets," Todd added. "I wouldn't mind flying, or driving a car, or looking at Joyce or any other pretty girl again. But I can't imagine being any happier." CAPTION: Picture, Joyce and John Todd. By Craig Herndon - The Washington Post