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ISSUE 120 - June 2010
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Respect For A Job Well Done

By David Rose, Contributing Editor
San Diego, California

It was my good fortune to accompany my family to Europe in 1949. The years spent there would provide me a perspective unusual among American teenagers of the fifty’s.

My obvious first impressions were of the vast destruction still extant following the 7 years of conflict so recently concluded. Just four years after the war had ended we found the people returning to a normal existence. It might yet take them a decade to erase the physical scars of war, but they were intent on shedding its mental scars. (Photos: Europe 1949, left. Frankfurt, right.)
I was to find a common thread in the cultures of European nations. A person was respected for how well their work was performed, not necessarily for what the work was; the dishwasher produced spotless dinnerware and was regarded for it; waiters universally held their jobs as a life work and janitors were respected for their facilities being well kept. Perhaps our own culture will one day outgrow the idea that a job, highly regarded, deserves more respect than the job well done.

Perhaps. But where janitors in Europe might enjoy the respect and recognition allotted one dedicated to a job well done, it has not been the case in our own culture.
And it was not Bill Crawford’s experience (photo right) after leaving the Army in Pueblo Colorado and taking a job as a janitor at the nearby US Air Force Academy (photo above). A fine decent man, Bill Crawford’s steady employment allowed him to build his own home, marry his beloved Eileen and raise his family of two children.

The cadets, for whom Bill provided a clean polished environment within which to pursue their academics, lived a life of drill and discipline, forever managing their hectic schedules to the minute, always hurrying, always pressured, with little time for themselves and certainly no time for ‘the janitor’.

Year after year, Bill went about his job anonymously; cleaning, polishing, never speaking nor being spoken to, invisible to the cadets. He was ‘just the janitor’, that grey haired ‘old guy’. The place was always shining and spotless so why would a cadet even notice a 50 year old janitor? He was simply beyond a cadet’s scope.

Until late 1976; one of the cadets residing in a building cared for by Bill Crawford ran across a story containing a reference to a ‘Bill Crawford’ and wondered if it might be the same man. The timing seemed right; thirty years had passed and Bill Crawford certainly was 50ish. Yet, wouldn’t it be incredible were it he; this shy withdrawn janitor who shuffled about, cleaning, sweeping, polishing, who seemed so much just a part of the woodwork.

“Yes that’s me" Bill Crawford quietly replied when questioned.

The cadets would find that the “Me” this shy man admitted to being was in fact Me; who faced three machine gun nests killing his platoon on Hill 424 outside Solerno, Italy on September 13, 1943. Me; who, without orders, on his own initiative, and under intense fire, made his way to the first gun emplacement, killing it’s crew and disabling the gun. Me; who made his way to the second gun, destroying it with hand grenades and killing it’s crew. Me; who, under direct fire from the third gun, was able to route its crew with a hand grenade and turn the gun on them as they fled. Me; who presumed dead, was in fact taken prisoner, held on the Eastern front and only liberated at the end of the war. And, Me; who was personally awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by the President of the United States.

Those who had known Bill Crawford up to then always respected him for the good decent person he was; but it had been virtually unknown, even in his small Colorado home town, that he was one of the great heroes of this countries history.

As the story spread, the cadets, who had never noticed him, changed overnight. Now everyone greeted him; no one missed an opportunity to say hello; respect and reverence pervaded the attitudes of the cadets toward him. Bill Crawford virtually became a member of the cadet corps, invited to and attending corps functions and celebrations, speaking and presenting at award ceremonies, now given the respect he deserved as a good man, let alone a Medal of Honor Recipient.

Perhaps the lesson the cadets learned in the story of Bill Crawford, stood them in the same good stead that the cultural lesson I learned in a war ravaged Europe has served me.

Be careful, first to recognize, and then to appreciate a job well done, whether you find it in the Board Room or in the basement, recognize it, and appreciate it.

William Crawford passed away in 2000. He is the only U.S. Army veteran and the sole Medal of Honor winner to be buried in the cemetery of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

More information about ‘The Crawford House’ assisting homeless veterans here.

More on Bill’s story can be found at here, and his Medal of Honor citation can be found at here.
By David Rose, Contributing Editor

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