The 2016 list is out - 58 restaurants offering free meals, entrance to Knott’s Berry Farm, national parks and even some museums are all free this upcoming Friday on Veterans Day. My husband and I make a day of it, happily choosing which venues we will enjoy. Some years we have shared dinner with our military friends and recognized people from the base at other tables, all of us laughing at ourselves for finding free dining irresistible despite the huge crowds. There is much more going on than a free meal though, there is that undeniable military connection happening between multiple generations and amongst veterans who have served different wars spanning at the very least 50 years. These locations providing enticing offers are filled with scores of veterans and countless untold stories.
Have you ever heard of William Crawford? He was a quiet janitor at the Air Force Academy, who spent his days discreetly waxing tables and mopping floors. Because Mr. Crawford was quiet and did his job well the Cadets hardly paid attention to him. He was their janitor, what more did they need to know? Then one day in 1976 a Cadet was reading a book about important World War II battles and after putting some pieces together came to discover that their unassuming janitor was a Medal of Honor winner. The citation for Mr. Crawford revealed that as an Army Private while fighting in Italy his platoon came under heavy fire. Private Crawford took it upon himself to charge a hill and while under continuous gunfire he single handedly attacked a total of three machinegun nests, killing multiple gunners and eventually turning one of the machineguns on the enemy. These actions aided in causing the Germans to withdraw and enabled his company to advance.
Once word got around at the Academy that Mr. Crawford was a Medal of Honor winner the cadets started treating him differently, saying good morning to him and including him in their daily interactions. Former Cadet James Moschgat, the cadet who discovered Mr. Crawford said that once the cadets changed their view of Mr. Crawford that he began to change as well. His stance became more upright and he began looking the cadets in the eye when speaking to them.
We just do not know when we are standing next to a true hero, a life or soul saver. According to the Veterans Administration website, there are more than 1,851,000 veterans in California of which more than 1,387,000 are wartime veterans. This week, if you are out and about enjoying Veterans Day festivities, please take a moment to observe who is next to you. Does the person seem quiet and unassuming? Is it possible to convince a quiet veteran to tell you their story? Are you willing to hear about a fellow veteran’s experiences even if not quite as exciting as your own? The challenge is simple, give a veteran an opportunity to tell their story and thank them for making a difference.