Ray Lambert passed away Friday, April 9, 2021, at the age of 100.
It is always presumptuous of us to accuse God of taking someone too early from our midst, and undoubtedly more so when the man has lived one hundred years of heroism as a son, brother, father, husband, friend, soldier, businessman, and inventor. Yet I cannot help but think Ray Lambert was taken far too early, for even at his age he was full of plans and things to be accomplished.
Ray was a true hero, a fact attested to not merely in his war medals – though he had a chest full of them, including three silver stars by my count, and a host of Bronzes. Ray saved literally hundreds of men with his own hands in the major battles of World War II, from Africa to Normandy. Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are a testament to Ray’s courage and determination under fire, his commitment to duty, his love of his fellow man.
He was heroic after the war as well, overcoming wounds that nearly crippled him, raising a family, running a large company, and even perfecting a device that conserved energy – he was man not only of his time, but ahead of it.
Ray enjoyed telling the tale of how he became a medic before the war, entwining it with a bit of Army humor and making it seem as if it was all about coincidence and chance. But I think that was characteristically far too modest. I cannot imagine a man better suited for a profession that relies on the twin virtues of selflessness and courage. I think the impulse to do great things and help those around him sprang from deep within Ray’s soul, and the Army had no real choice in the matter.
I learned many things from Ray in our too short time together – including the secrets to ordering the best food and “senior coffee” at McDonald’s. He was quick with a joke, gentle with advice, thoughtful when it came to friends. He told me many things about World War II and life in general that I could not have gotten from anyone else. But the most important thing he taught me was a piece of advice I picked up simply by being with him:
Live life forward.
Live life forward. Whether that means starting an electrical contracting company in a state you barely know, or working a backhoe at 80-something – always be on the next adventure. If what you’re doing doesn’t come off well, then try again. Or try something else. The important thing is to be on-going.
Live life forward.
I’m sure that was one of his secrets to longevity. But then again, speaking to Ray, I never felt as if I were talking to an old man; he was a youth at heart, even at one hundred years old. He was always ready to charge forward, still a medic running amid the bullets to help some fallen comrade, or keep the next one from going down.
I could say many more things about Ray – we wrote a book together, after all. But he was always telling me to keep it short, and so I will. Thank you, Ray. We’ll try to follow your lead..
Perhaps best known for the worldwide blockbuster book and movie, AMERICAN SNIPER, Jim DeFelice is the best-selling author of a wide range of fiction and non-fiction works. His most recent nonfiction works include WEST LIKE LIGHTNING, a history of the Pony Express, and AMERICAN SPIRIT with Taya Kyle, a celebration of perseverance and service by people all across this great country of America.
Jim's other World War II books include RANGERS AT DIEPPE, an account of the first battle U.S. Army Rangers ever fought, and OMAR BRADLEY, GENERAL at WAR, the first full-length biography of America's last five-star General, and the man who led the D-Day invasion.
Visit Jim's website at JimDeFelice.com