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Never Judge A Janitor Or A Book By It's Cover

Sun Jan 04, 2004 6:35 pm

Saw this story over on another forum I visit (Sorry I am a forum slut Johan  Sad ) and thought I would post it over here since there are some good life lessons in it.

I will warn you though it was writting by a military man for military readers so some of you might not get it. But I thought it was an interesting read

By Col. James Moschgat, 12th Operations Group Commander

William "Bill" Crawford certainly 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. Sadly, and
for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more
than a passing nod or throwing a curt, "G'morning!" in his direction as
we hurried off to our daily duties.

Why? Perhaps it was because of the way he did his job-he always kept
the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers
gleamed. Frankly, he did his job so well, none of us had to notice or
get involved. After all, cleaning toilets was his job, not ours. Maybe
it was is physical appearance that made him disappear into the
background. Bill didn't move very quickly and, in fact, you could say
he even shuffled a bit, as if he suffered from some sort of injury. His
gray hair and wrinkled face made him appear ancient to a group of young
cadets. And his crooked smile, well, it looked a little funny. Face it,
Bill was an old man working in a young person's world. What did he have
to offer us on a personal level?

Finally, maybe it was Mr. Crawford's personality that rendered him
almost invisible to the young people around him. Bill was shy, almost
painfully so. He seldom spoke to a cadet unless they addressed him
first, and that didn't happen very often. Our janitor always buried
himself in his work, moving about with stooped shoulders, a quiet gait,
and an averted gaze. If he noticed the hustle and bustle of cadet life
around him, it was hard to tell. So, for whatever reason, Bill blended
into the woodwork and became just another fixture around the squadron.
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

That changed one fall Saturday afternoon in 1976. I was reading a book
about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I
stumbled across an incredible story. 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. 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 winner." We all knew Mr.
Crawford was a WWII 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 on Monday. We met Mr.
Crawford bright and early Monday and showed him the page in question
from the book, anticipation and doubt in our faces. He starred at it
for a few silent moments and then quietly uttered something like, "Yep,
that's me."

Mouths agape, my roommate and I looked at one another, then at the book,
and quickly back at our janitor. Almost at once we 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."

I guess we were all at a loss for words after that. We had to hurry off
to class and Bill, well, he had chores to attend to. However, after
that brief exchange, 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 won 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." Those who had
before left a mess for the "janitor" to clean up started taking it upon
themselves to put things in order. Most cadets routinely stopped to
talk to Bill throughout the day and we even began inviting him to our
formal squadron functions. He'd show up dressed in a conservative dark
suit and quietly talk to those who approached him, the only sign of his
heroics being a simple blue, star-spangled lapel pin.

Almost overnight, Bill went from being a simple fixture in our squadron
to one of our teammates. Mr. Crawford changed too, but you had to look
closely to notice the difference. After that fall day in 1976, he
seemed to move with more purpose, his shoulders didn't seem to be as
stooped, he met our greetings with a direct gaze and a stronger "good
morning" in return, and he flashed his crooked smile more often. The
squadron gleamed as always, but everyone now seemed to notice it more.
Bill even got to know most of us by our first names, something that
didn't happen often at the Academy. While no one ever formally
acknowledged the change, I think we became Bill's cadets and his
squadron. As often happens in life, events sweep us away from those in
our past.

The last time I saw Bill was on graduation day in June 1977. As I
walked out of the squadron for the last time, he shook my hand and
simply said, "Good luck, young man." With that, I embarked on a career
that has been truly lucky and blessed. Mr. Crawford continued to work
at the Academy and eventually retired in his native Colorado where he
resides today, one of four Medal of Honor winners living in a small

A wise person once said, "It's not life that's important, but those you
meet along the way that make the difference." Bill was one who made a
difference for me. While I haven't seen Mr. Crawford in over twenty
years, he'd probably be surprised to know I think of him often. Bill
Crawford, our janitor, taught me many valuable, unforgettable leadership
lessons. Here are ten I'd like to share with you.

1. Be Cautious of Labels. Labels you place on people may define your
relationship to them and bound 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
around us. He deserved much more, and not just because he was a Medal of
Honor winner. 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 won 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

8. Don't pursue glory; pursue excellence. Private Bill Crawford didn't
pursue glory; he did his duty and then swept floors for a living. No job
is Beneath a Leader. If Bill Crawford, a Medal of Honor winner, 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 PME class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is
a leadership laboratory. Those you meet everyday 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. Thanks, Mr. Crawford, for some
valuable leadership lessons.

Anyway here is a more condensed background on the man if you are interested

PVT William John Crawford was a platoon scout for 3rd Platoon of Company
L, 142nd Regiment, 36th Division (Texas National Guard) and won the
Medal Of Honor for his actions on Hill 424, just 4 days after the
invasion at Salerno. You can read his citation at
On Hill 424, PVT Crawford took out 3 enemy machine guns before darkness
fell, halting the platoon's advance. PVT Crawford could not be found
and was assumed dead. The request for his MOH was quickly approved.
Major General Terry Allen presented the posthumous MOH to Bill
Crawford's father, George, on 11 May 1944 in Camp (now Fort) Carson,
near Pueblo. Nearly two months after that, it was learned that PVT
Crawford was alive in a POW camp in Germany.

During his captivity, a German guard clubbed him with his rifle. Bill
overpowered him, took the rifle away, and beat the guard unconscious. A
German doctor's testimony saved him from severe punishment, perhaps
death. To stay ahead of the advancing Russian army, the prisoners were
marched 500 miles in 52 days in the middle of the German winter,
subsisting on one potato a day. An allied tank column liberated the
camp in the spring of 1945, and PVT Crawford took his first hot shower
in 18 months on VE Day. PVT Crawford stayed in the army before retiring
as a MSG and becoming a janitor. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan
officially presented the MOH to Bill Crawford

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RE: Never Judge A Janitor Or A Book By It's Cover

Mon Jan 05, 2004 8:46 am

That was very intersting. Thanks for posting it L-188.
"It starts when you're always afraid; You step out of line, the man come and take you away" -Buffalo Springfield
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jul 23, 2003 8:48 am

RE: Never Judge A Janitor Or A Book By It's Cover

Mon Jan 05, 2004 8:57 am

Thanks for the great true story

Very Interesting

Posts: 1989
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2000 4:51 am

RE: Never Judge A Janitor Or A Book By It's Cover

Mon Jan 05, 2004 6:42 pm

It's a good lesson in life. More than once I've been surprised by someone I thought I knew, just by taking the time to really talk to them.

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