Bill was shy, almost painfully so, seldom speaking to a cadet unless they addressed him first, always burying himself in his work. The Academy, one of our nationR17;s premier leadership laboratories, kept us busy from dawn till dusk. And Mr. Crawford…well, he was just a janitor.
That changed one fall Saturday afternoon. I was reading a book about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I stumbled across an incredible story.
William Crawford “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire…with no regard for personal safety…on his own initiative…single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions. …for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States…”
“Holy cow,” I said to my roommate, “I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor recipient.”
We couldnR17;t wait to ask Bill about the story.
We met Mr. Crawford bright and early Monday and showed him the page from the book. He stared at it for a few silent moments and then quietly uttered something like, “Yep, thatR17;s me.” Mouths agape, my roommate and I both stuttered, “Why didnR17;t you ever tell us about it?”
He slowly replied after some thought, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”
Things were never again the same around our squadron. Word spread like wildfire among the cadets that we had a hero in our midst—Mr. Crawford, our janitor, had been bestowed the Medal! Cadets who had once passed by Bill with hardly a glance, now greeted him with a smile and a respectful, “Good morning, Mr. Crawford.”
Cadets who had once passed by Bill with hardly a glance, now greeted him with a smile and a respectful, “Good morning, Mr. Crawford.”
Those who had before left a mess for the “janitor” to clean up, started taking it upon themselves to put things in order. Almost overnight, Bill went from being a simple fixture in our squadron to one of our teammates.
Mr. Crawford changed too, seeming to move with more purpose, his shoulders not as stooped, meeting our greetings with a direct gaze and a stronger “good morning” in return, and flashing his crooked smile more often. While no one ever formally acknowledged the change, I think we became BillR17;s cadets and his squadron.
A wise person once said, “ItR17;s not life thatR17;s important, but those you meet along the way that make the difference.”