The heroes who appear in our lives can be all shapes and sizes. One hopes to never face a house fire or a terrible disease, but when these things happen, our doctors and firemen can easily be seen as heroes. Other times, our heroes are other citizens; passersby who wish us well, or pick up an item we dropped, or help us lift something heavy when we’re at our wits end. These small acts of kindness are a form of heroism too, and a janitorial service offering commercial facilities cleaning can save us from feeling overwhelmed by the cleaning our office needs. Today’s story involves a different kind of heroism, but one that presented itself in an unassuming package.
William Crawford worked as a janitor for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. A shy and unassuming man, students began to regard him as something of a fixture in their lives; he’d always leave the space clean and tidy, with nary a word to anyone. He worked there for about a decade before a student, Cadet James Moschgat, found a William J. Crawford in a history book; this man, with the same name as their janitor, was a Medal of Honor recipient. When Moschgat showed the janitor his history book and asked if he was the same man, Crawford is said to have responded “That was a long time ago, and one day in my life”.
Crawford was a private in the US Army during the Allied campaign in Italy. The army was pushing back German forces in the south of Italy, and Crawford was a part of a battle for an important hill in the area. German gunners were firing from bunkers along the side of the hill; Crawford decided to engage the bunkers. Crawling under bullet fire, he successfully assaulted the first bunker with a grenade; he went on to do the same with two other bunkers, successfully taking the hill. In an ensuing skirmish, however, he was taken captive and presumed dead.
His father was presented the Medal of Honor “posthumously”; later in 1944, however, Crawford was rescued with several other POWs from a German camp. He continued to serve in the Army until 1967, at which point he began his janitorial work for the Air Force Academy. No longer “just a janitor” to the Academy students, he became a figure of greatness, a person who students looked to for advice and leadership, despite his shyness.
At one point, Crawford revealed that he had never been granted a Medal of Honor from a president; the ceremony in which his father was given the medal was the only one. The students at the Academy felt this wasn’t fair, and arranged for President Ronald Reagan to hold a ceremony for their janitor at the academy in 1984.
We are surrounded by heroes; it’s impossible to say what someone has been through without speaking with them. Your janitorial staff have had tremendous experience, whether they be Medal of Honor recipients or not; it’s worth taking the time to talk with cleaning staff, because you never know who might be a hero.