Colonel James Moschgat, USAF (Ret.), wrote this post about an unusual discovery that transformed both the janitor and the students who learned of his MOH status and meritorious service.
At the writing, Col Moschgat was the associate dean of operations at the National Security Space Institute (NSSI) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (His CV )
by James Moschgat, USAF (Ret.)
William “Bill” Crawford was an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Mr. Crawford, as most of us referred to him back in the late 1970s, was our squadron janitor.
While we cadets busied ourselves preparing for academic exams, athletic events, Saturday morning parades, and room inspections — or never — ending leadership classes—Bill quietly moved about the squadron mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory.
READ MORE on how Mr. Crawford was discovered by the ‘kids’ in the dorm and how this transformed both the students and the senior veteran, now janitor in their midst!
What we continue with below are the oft-cited 10 lessons – They came from the quiet, devoted Mr. Crawford who took on the work he did, just so he could be close to the military family that was so important to him.
First an excerpt of his meritorious record: On September 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy.
leapt out at the author of this full article: “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…”
Now more of Col Moschgat’s own words:
Here are ten I’d like to share:
1.) Be Cautious of Labels. Labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bind their potential. Sadly, and for a long time, we labeled Bill as just a janitor, but he was so much more. Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, “Hey, he’s just an Airman.” Likewise, don’t tolerate the O-1, who says, “I can’t do that, I’m just a lieutenant.”
2.) Everyone Deserves Respect. Because we hung the “janitor” label on Mr. Crawford, we often wrongly treated him with less respect than others. He deserved much more, and not just because he was received the Medal of Honor. Bill deserved respect because he was a janitor, walked among us, and was a part of our team.
3.) Courtesy Makes a Difference. Be courteous to all around you, regardless of rank or position. Military customs, as well as common courtesies, help bond a team. When our daily words to Mr. Crawford turned from perfunctory “hellos” to heartfelt greetings, his demeanor and personality outwardly changed. It made a difference for all of us.
4.) Take Time to Know Your People. Life in the military is hectic, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the people you work for and with. For years a hero walked among us at the Academy and we never knew it. Who are the heroes that walk in your midst?
5.) Anyone Can Be a Hero. Mr. Crawford certainly didn’t fit anyone’s standard definition of a hero. Moreover, he was just a private on the day he earned his Medal. Don’t sell your people short, for any one of them may be the hero who rises to the occasion when duty calls. On the other hand, it’s easy to turn to your proven performers when the chips are down, but don’t ignore the rest of the team. Today’s rookie could and should be tomorrow’s superstar.
6.) Leaders Should Be Humble. Most modern day heroes, and some leaders are anything but humble, especially if you calibrate your “hero meter” on today’s athletic fields. End zone celebrations and self-aggrandizement are what we’ve come to expect from sports greats. Not Mr. Crawford—he was too busy working to celebrate his past heroics. Leaders would be well served to do the same.
7.) Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve. We in the military work hard and, dang it, we deserve recognition, right? However, sometimes you just have to persevere, even when accolades don’t come your way. Perhaps you weren’t nominated for junior officer or airman of the quarter as you thought you should — don’t let that stop you. Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence. Private Bill Crawford didn’t pursue glory — he did his duty and then swept floors for a living.
8.) No Job is Beneath a Leader. If Bill Crawford, a Medal of Honor recipient, could clean latrines and smile, is there a job beneath your dignity? Think about it.
9.) Pursue Excellence. No matter what task life hands you, do it well. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “If life makes you a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.” Mr. Crawford modeled that philosophy and helped make our dormitory area a home.
10.) Life is a Leadership Laboratory. All too often we look to some school or class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is a leadership laboratory. Those you meet every day will teach you enduring lessons if you just take time to stop, look, and listen. I spent four years at the Air Force Academy, took dozens of classes, read hundreds of books, and met thousands of great people. I gleaned leadership skills from all of them, but one of the people I remember most is Mr. Bill Crawford and the lessons he unknowingly taught. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn.
Bill Crawford was a janitor. However, he was also a teacher, friend, role model, and one great American hero.
Below is more history shared on Pvt W. J. Crawford in the original article
Private William John Crawford was a scout for 3rd Platoon, Company I, 142nd Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, fighting in Italy during World War II on September 13, 1943 — just four days after the invasion of Salerno.
Crawford was a hero, lauded by peers for his actions in combat but was missing in action and presumed dead. Army Major General Terry Allen presented Crawford’s Medal of Honor posthumously to his father, George, on May 11, 1944, at Camp (now Fort) Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
It was later learned that Crawford was alive and in a POW camp. He returned to the United States after 18 months in captivity.
Crawford retired from the Army after 23 years and went to work as a janitor at the U.S. Air Force Academy so that he could remain close to the military. Master Sergeant William J. Crawford passed away in 2000. He is buried on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.