Yes … the Guard is changing! We’re on the way out and won’t be remembered too much longer. With that said, here’s a tribute to my friend John Crawford … Gentleman of Fortune and the Fight.
What follows is personal … very personal. Acquaintances come and go but there are those who circle their wagons around our camps and just seem to stay and stay. John Crawford is one of those. I’m going to use as a preamble to this short story a Deseret News article of 1986. You’ll see a little box with 4 arrows at the top of the PDF. Click on it to enlarge the article. Then when you are finished, click on the box at the bottom.
The foregoing says a lot about John but leaves out a large measure of the color of his character.
I know of his childhood, young adulthood, service during the Korean War and other details. But that’s for another writing. I want you all to know of the circumstance under which we met and a few short vignettes thereafter. After all, Utah’s 19th Special Forces Group launched our friendship.
Sometime between 1985-86 on a drill day at the Sunnyside Armory in Salt Lake City, as the 19th Group’s S-2, I was still working frenziedly to assimilate and separate Army vocabulary from my Air Force underpinnings.
The troops were milling around the drill floor and I was meandering through the gaggle. Much to my surprise, a motley bunch of Bedouins in bed sheets … unkempt, bandaged, turbaned and grimey … straggled and limped along behind a squared away blond haired, athletic caucasian looking to be in his 40-50s. They were making their way toward me from across the way. Col. (at that time) James G. Martin just happened to be at my side and barked, “Who the hell are those guys Wickizer?” I stammered, “I don’t know Sir!” “Well, you’re the S-2. You should know. Find out and get them the hell out of here,” is what I recall today were his orders of yesteryear.
I hadn’t seen a bunch like this since 1956 when as a young Airman I launched along with my fellows on a Top Secret adventure to the Middle East and Operation “Dark Eyes.”
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I beat feet to the limping, bandaged, peg legged, crutch humping bunch and stopped their leader in his tracks. He was John Crawford … the man from the above article.
John and I sat down in the middle of the armory floor and had a nose to nose. He told me that he had recently arrived in Utah after visiting with U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and other luminaries in Washington, D.C. He was working to gain some recognition and support for his Afghan friends. I told him that Col. Martin was chewing my ass and greasing his (John’s) and his ragtag bunch’s “skids” and wanted John and his strange assortment of stragglers out. By way of explanation, the concern was for attracting the many political “naysayers” who might catch wind of this visit and publicize it as an endorsement by the 19th Special Forces Group. The political climate at the time was not ripe for the overt or covert inference of any such endorsement or relationship.
Crawford was not only tough, squared away and athletic but he was/is cerebral and understood and complied immediately. Off they went, straggling, stumping and kerfuffling along with John at the point.
As the years went by, John and I became fast friends. “Sub Rosa” I acted informally from time to time as his liaison as he returned to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets along side the Mujahideen. If you all knew of Bert Smith the “King of Surplus” in Utah, you’ll add 2+2 and come up with some of the “stuff” that the Afghans were enjoying from Utah.
Oh there are stories and more stories. We could visit about John and his dear friend Afghan Field Commander Abdul Haq. There’s a real “James Bondish” tale to be told of Haq’s death and the death of Haq’s son … all tied to Osama Bin Laden and the CIA. Perhaps another time when John is gone we’ll tell it.
One side of John that few know is his passion for antiquities, art and music. As his “trekking” days were winding down, he settled in California wine country as a collector and seller of fine art and antiquities. However, California wine country was flowing and flooding with more liberals than wine and John wanted out. I had lost my first wife Sheri to cancer and married Deb about a year later. We moved to Mountain Home, Utah a community on the South slope of the Uintas at about 7,000 feet elevation. I told people that if we saw one car a day we were having a traffic jam.
Well John heard of our bliss and decided he’d like to find a way to share it. He flew out to Salt Lake City and we went house hunting in the Uintas. He found a little cabin about 2 miles from us in Mountain Home. There’s more to this and I’m wearing out for tonight.
John lives on now in a rest home near Provo. He’s there with “Candy Bomber” Hal Halvorsen. On a good month, I venture out to Provo for a visit. I know that both of them delight with visits from military men and women.
Next time I post about John, I’ll fill in some of the blanks from above.
It’s a bit tardy, but here’s our tribute to the Rule of Law, Good Governance and Justice4All for the 4th of July! Turn up the volume please. At the end if you’ve maximized the screen, please hit “Escape” to get out.
The Ole’ Buzzard