Meeting My Hero
by Carl Leffel (from Georgia)
Growing up at Fort Benning, Georgia, allowed us kids to always get into everything. I do remember one day while delivering TV guides to my many customers, I saw a large group of people in a field next to our house. I rode my bicycle down to several MPs (Military Police), who had the road blocked, and asked what was going on. The one MP told me they were making a training film and Johnny Crawford was there. JOHNNY CRAWFORD!!—that was Mark McCain from The Rifleman and one of my heroes. After telling the MPs how much I liked Mr. Crawford and how I used to play his character while we were in Germany from 1959-1962, he ask me if I would like to meet him…I almost wet my pants when he said that. The MP got on the radio and after a few minutes, he walked over to me and said, “Leave your bike and lets go.”
We walked across the field, and I can assure you I was scared to death. Because of my father’s job, I had met generals, Senators and representatives of congress, but nobody as famous as Johnny Crawford. In my eyes he was a national hero. I remember walking to the crowd of folks when…wait…there he was. I could see him…he was right there. Maybe 50 feet or so. I froze, not wanting to mess this up. The MP walked up to another gentleman and they talked, then the MP turned and motioned for me to come over. Now we were only 10-15 feet apart, and he looked toward me. WOW…Johnny Crawford. He was in uniform, and after a few minutes, someone walked over to him and they talked. After a second or two, he came over to me and stuck out his hand. I could not believe it, my hero Mark McCain was going to shake my hand. He asked me my name, and I told him and told him everything I could remember about him. I finally asked him for his autograph but all I had was the money I was collecting for my TV Guides, so I asked him to sign a dollar bill. I remember him snickering that I would spend the dollar. (I was 12) and I promised I never would.
And I never did, but when my Mom moved from Columbus, Georgia, to Austin, Texas, in the early 80s, the dollar, along with my entire coin collection, was stolen along with many other items. I was devastated at the loss, but I still had the memory. That will never be taken.
The day I met Sergeant Crawford has remained with me all of my life, and that day helped change my life. Because of that meeting and the fact my father was in the military, I entered the Army on 11 September 1972 and also served a tour at Ft Benning, GA. Many times while stationed there, I would drive past the area where we lived and the field where I met Johnny Crawford. I finished my military career on 1 October 1992 and have Johnny Crawford and my Dad to thank for my wonderful career.
I loved the character of Mark McCain and dreamed of the relationship he had with his father Lucas. That relationship was something I never had with my dad, and I used to play the role of Mark McCain in order to have that relationship. Thank you, Johnny Crawford.
In The Army
by Tom Hervey (From Rosemead, Los Angeles County, California, and now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area)
Johnny and I were inducted into the US Army at the same time on 21 December 1965, in Los Angeles. We were flown on the same airplane to El Paso, Texas. We went through Basic Training together, along with others, at Fort Bliss in Company D, 3d Battalion, 2d Brigade. I was in the 1st Platoon and Johnny was in the 2nd Platoon. Many of us were away from home for the very first time in our lives. Our actual training commenced on 27 December 1965 and was completed on 19 February 1966.
On Christmas Day, Johnny put on an “official” show for all of us. From what I can recall, Johnny put on two shows in order to accommodate everyone. I believe that those who got to attend were just those of us basic training recruits plus the cadre, top brass and their VIPs. I think Johnny spoke some about himself but mostly he sang songs that he had recorded and a couple of Christmas carols.
I never felt Johnny was treated any differently than the rest of us. Johnny had to go through the same training as the rest of us did. He pulled K.P. like everyone else did. He had his Sergeant yelling at him like I had my Sergeant yelling at me to do better. About half of our Company’s recruits were from the L.A. area and the other half were from Colorado, mostly the Denver area. There were a couple of guys in our outfit that I had gone to school with but I don’t know if there were anyone that Johnny knew prior to being inducted into the Army.
I do remember that Johnny had volunteered for the Draft. If you knew you were going to be drafted at some point, you could talk to your local draft board and kind of work out a time deal for when that was to occur. The reasoning behind that was that Draftees only had to serve two years actively as opposed to those who enlisted in the Regular Army who had to serve three years. Just about all the recruits in our outfit were Draftees. Back in that time there was not a “lottery number” that we all came under. That didn’t come about until December of 1969, after Johnny and I, plus many, many others, had fulfilled our obligations.
After our training was completed, Johnny was sent on his way and I was sent on my way, which included a tour in Vietnam.
I salute you, Johnny Crawford, for your service to our nation…