A warrior's tale to make you feel good

I've been meaning to write about this for a couple of months after it first turned up in an emailed newsletter from a veterans' group, Together We Served, of which I'm a member, but all the election and political hoopla kept diverting my attention.  Even so, throughout the approaching Christmas season, my mind kept returning to this wonderful story and the life lessons it taught a squadron of America's finest young future leaders and how those same lessons can benefit us all.  Now, as we approach the New Year and many of us make resolutions, it is a certainty that you can find inspiration for at least a couple in this story.

In the TWS newsletter Dispatches, Col. James Moschgat, USAF retired, recounts that while a cadet at the Air Force Academy in the 1970s, his and his fellow cadets' barracks were kept spic-and-span clean by a nondescript old janitor, Bill, who went about his work quietly and efficiently, attracting little attention from the busy young men whose living quarters he maintained.  His was a life of just getting by, while theirs were just getting started and aiming high, so there was little to be exchanged between shy old Bill Crawford and these youthful cadets beyond quick "good mornings" and other impersonal greetings made in brief encounters.

That all changed one weekend in 1976, when Cadet Moschgat was reading a history of WWII and came across an account that stunned him of a battle in Italy.  I'll let him tell it:

On September 13, 1943, a Pvt. William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy.

"William Crawford's Medal of Honor Citation."

The words on the page leapt out at me, "in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire... with no regard for personal safety... on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions." It continued, "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, "you're not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor recipient." We all knew Mr. Crawford was a World War II Army vet, but that didn't keep my friend from looking at me as if I was some sort of alien being. Nonetheless, we couldn't wait to ask Bill about the story.

This, of course, they did, and laconic old Bill confessed, "Yep, that's me."  For the rest of this very emotion-filled and heartwarming story, you really do need to click here to read Colonel Moschgat's account at Together We Served.  I promise you that it will make your day better just reading how those cadets changed in their interactions with Bill Crawford.  There are a couple of great pics of Bill and some excellent leadership guidelines listed by Col. Moschgat that this experience instilled in him as a future Air Force officer.  And if you click on the colonel's link to Homeofheroes.com, there is an additional surprise to this story.

I've been meaning to write about this for a couple of months after it first turned up in an emailed newsletter from a veterans' group, Together We Served, of which I'm a member, but all the election and political hoopla kept diverting my attention.  Even so, throughout the approaching Christmas season, my mind kept returning to this wonderful story and the life lessons it taught a squadron of America's finest young future leaders and how those same lessons can benefit us all.  Now, as we approach the New Year and many of us make resolutions, it is a certainty that you can find inspiration for at least a couple in this story.

In the TWS newsletter Dispatches, Col. James Moschgat, USAF retired, recounts that while a cadet at the Air Force Academy in the 1970s, his and his fellow cadets' barracks were kept spic-and-span clean by a nondescript old janitor, Bill, who went about his work quietly and efficiently, attracting little attention from the busy young men whose living quarters he maintained.  His was a life of just getting by, while theirs were just getting started and aiming high, so there was little to be exchanged between shy old Bill Crawford and these youthful cadets beyond quick "good mornings" and other impersonal greetings made in brief encounters.

That all changed one weekend in 1976, when Cadet Moschgat was reading a history of WWII and came across an account that stunned him of a battle in Italy.  I'll let him tell it:

On September 13, 1943, a Pvt. William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy.

"William Crawford's Medal of Honor Citation."

The words on the page leapt out at me, "in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire... with no regard for personal safety... on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions." It continued, "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, "you're not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor recipient." We all knew Mr. Crawford was a World War II Army vet, but that didn't keep my friend from looking at me as if I was some sort of alien being. Nonetheless, we couldn't wait to ask Bill about the story.

This, of course, they did, and laconic old Bill confessed, "Yep, that's me."  For the rest of this very emotion-filled and heartwarming story, you really do need to click here to read Colonel Moschgat's account at Together We Served.  I promise you that it will make your day better just reading how those cadets changed in their interactions with Bill Crawford.  There are a couple of great pics of Bill and some excellent leadership guidelines listed by Col. Moschgat that this experience instilled in him as a future Air Force officer.  And if you click on the colonel's link to Homeofheroes.com, there is an additional surprise to this story.