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'The Free World Salutes You': WWII Army Medic Hailed for D-Day Heroism Dies at 100

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Ray Lambert, an Army medic who survived multiple wounds on D-Day and was saluted by former President Donald Trump on the battle’s 75th anniversary, died on Friday. He was 100.

Lambert died at his home in Seven Lakes, North Carolina, with his wife and daughter by his side, according to neighbor and friend Dr. Darrell Simpkins.

The physician, who accompanied Lambert to France in June 2019, said the veteran succumbed to an aggressive form of facial cancer and congestive heart failure.

“Ray was talking coherently, conversing on the phone, and enjoying visitors until yesterday,” Simpkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “He was an amazing man.”

The Alabama native was a medic with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, part of the Army’s 1st Division — the “Big Red One.”

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He took part in the Allied invasions of North Africa and Sicily before his part in World War II came to an end on June 6, 1944, on the sands of Omaha Beach.

Sgt. Lambert was in the first wave of the assault. He was helping a wounded soldier in the heavy surf when a landing craft ramp dropped on him.

“Ray was only 23, but he had already earned three Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars for fighting in North Africa and Sicily,” then-President Trump said in 2019 at the American Cemetery overlooking the beach.

“They came to the sector, right here below us,” Trump continued as Lambert sat behind him, wearing his favorite “D-Day Survivor” cap.

“Again and again, Ray ran back into the water. He dragged out one man after another. He was shot through the arm. His leg was ripped open by shrapnel. His back was broken. He nearly drowned.”

At the end of his speech, Trump turned to face Lambert.

“Ray,” he said, “the free world salutes you.”

For many years, the diminutive businessman refused to talk about the horrors he had witnessed and experienced overseas. But as he aged and his fellow veterans began passing away, he felt a duty to share his story and theirs.

“I did what I was called to do,” he wrote in his book, “Every Man a Hero,” published shortly before the 75th anniversary.

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“As a combat medic, my job was to save people, and to lead others who did the same. I was proud of that job and remain so. But I was always an ordinary man, not one who liked being at the head of a parade…

“My job now is to remember, not for my sake, but for the sake of others.”

Lambert had made many trips to Normandy in France, visiting classrooms and posing for photos. During the 2019 trip, a French elementary school student asked Lambert if he still had nightmares about D-Day.

“When I go to look at the beaches at Omaha, I remember all my friends that were killed there,” he said. “And when I look at the Channel and the water is rough … it seems at times that I can hear voices.”

That morning in 1944, as bullets whizzed and mortar rounds splashed around him, Lambert scanned the beach for something behind which he could safely treat the wounded. He spotted a lump of leftover German concrete, about 8 feet wide and 4 feet high.

“It was my salvation,” he said.

A plaque installed in 2018 now recognizes it as “Ray’s Rock.”

Simpkins said Lambert requested that his ashes be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and that some be scattered on Omaha Beach.

Lambert is survived by his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Linda McInerney. He was preceded in death by his son, Arnold Lambert.

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