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 nation’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 couldn’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, that’s me.” Mouths agape, my roommate and I both stuttered, “Why didn’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 Bill’s cadets and his squadron.
A wise person once said, “It’s not life that’s important, but those you meet along the way that make the difference.”