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New memorial to Palmer Lake Medal of Honor recipient dedicated on Veterans Day

November 12, 2017 Updated: November 12, 2017 at 7:04 am
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Beverly Kite, left, carries a wreath to the memorial dedication site for her father William (Bill) J. Crawford, MSGT, U. S. Army, WWII, Medal of Honor Recipient on Saturday November 11, 2017 in Palmer Lake. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

Nearly 150 Palmer Lake residents celebrated Veterans Day on Saturday with the unveiling of the memorial for a 1943 Medal of Honor recipient and former Palmer Lake resident, Army Master Sgt. William J. Crawford.

"It is a beautiful and humble tribute, exactly what a humble and quiet man like my father would have wanted," Crawford's daughter Beverly Kite said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The memorial, which replaces one from 2001, consists of two granite boulders that overlook Palmer Lake on the north end of town. On the boulders are three plaques, which describe Crawford's life and military accomplishments.

Attendees of Saturday's celebration heard about those accomplishments from guest speaker, retired Army Col. Bob McLaughlin.

People attend William (Bill) J. Crawford, MSGT, U. S. Army, WWII, Medal of Honor Recipient's Memorial Dedication on Saturday November 11, 2017 in Palmer Lake. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette). 

Crawford, who was born in Pueblo in 1918 and died March 15, 2000, was known throughout his life for his humility, attendees of the memorial dedication said.

McLaughlin said Crawford always described the day that earned him the Medal of Honor as, "just another day in my life."

The "just another day" was Sept. 13, 1943, near Altavilla, Italy. Crawford's platoon came under enemy machine-gun and smalls-arms fire as they came to the crest of a hill.

Without waiting for orders, Crawford moved over the hill and singlehandedly destroyed the machine-gun nest, killing three Germans with a hand grenade.

When his platoon continued over the knob of the hill, they again were met with "intense fire." Moving forward between two machine-gun nests, Crawford took both out, one with a hand grenade and the other with his rifle.

Crawford was awarded the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life," according to his citation from 1944.

"His actions saved many and allowed his unit to finish the mission," McLaughlin said to the crowd Saturday, Kite smiling and nodding in agreement. "He was a patriot and humble servant."

The Army, believing he was dead after he went missing in action, originally presented his medal to his family. He was re-awarded the medal by Ronald Reagan 41 years later.

For Kite, Saturday's ceremony reminded her how much her father appreciated the Palmer Lake community.

"My dad loved this town," Kite said. "I'm just so pleased that the townspeople came together to do this for him."

Crawford lived in Palmer Lake for 54 years while he worked as a janitor at the Air Force Academy, never mentioning to academy officials or cadets that he had received the Medal of Honor, McLaughlin said.

Only after a cadet read about Crawford's accomplishment in a book about World War II did he open up to those at the academy.

The Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition's Crawford House is named for him. It provides emergency housing for homeless veterans and those receiving VA-provided mental health care or substance abuse treatment.

It is the only a private, nonprofit veterans' residential treatment facility in Colorado.

For more information on Crawford and the memorial, go to wjcrawfordmemorial fund.com.

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