Walter Lambert never suspected that his experience as a coxswain on the Shrewsbury River would lead him to the beaches of Normandy to partake in one of the most iconic battles in history. Now a 95-year-old decorated veteran, Mr. Lambert volunteered his time on Veterans Day to guide students at The Rumson Country Day School on an enlightening WWII-era journey, streamed live from his living room into their classrooms, to pass down history and honor those who have served.
“I think he would have made an excellent student at RCDS,” said RCDS parent and proud granddaughter Sarah Chin as she introduced her Grandfather via Zoom. “He upholds every one of our four pillars. He is kind, honest, responsible, and respectful. We’re so very fortunate to have Grandpa Wally with us here today. His stories from WWII have bridged the gap between generations.”
An insightful student Q&A with Mr. Lambert set the stage for his compelling storytelling. From the structured routines at boot camp to life on a landing ship tank, students received a first-hand account of what it was like to enlist in the services in 1942. Mr. Lambert described the landing ship tanks as “no palace” where officers took saltwater showers but were grateful for food and a warm bunk – luxurious living compared to the soldiers who hunkered down in foxholes, he explained.
He educated students about Victory mail, a particular postal system put into place during the war; he recalled the weather which significantly impacted the plans of the D-day attack; and elaborated on the technological advancements that made WWII different from any war that came before it.
Although Mr. Lambert is a recipient of the Legion of Honor, the highest French order of merit, he remains humble. “I don’t like to promote myself as a hero,” he said. “I was just one of the thousands of guys at D-day.”
“We were honored to have Mr. Lambert share his story,” said Head of School Carson Smith. “Thank you to the Lambert and Chin families for facilitating such a fascinating and significant acknowledgment of this very important holiday; I cannot imagine a better way to mark Veterans Day.”
RCDS educators regularly incorporate rich educational opportunities for students to hear from primary sources of history, like Mr. Lambert, and other guest experts with myriad real-life experiences. Past guests include civil engineer Mark Love, biologist Heather Montgomery, mindfulness coach Dr. Carol Penn, and children’s book author Rashad Malik Davis.