"Every Man A Hero"

August 31, 2019  •  6 Comments

I've been home over a week now and I still cannot believe I got to experience what I did on my trip to North Carolina. It was kind of a triple play event, as I met three WWII veterans each in their homes in NC and got to photograph them for my WWII veterans Portraits of Honor project. The first was maybe the most exciting, meeting 98-year-old Sgt. Ray Lambert, an Army medic who fought and served in North Africa, Sicily and at D-Day on Utah Beach in Normandy. I first discovered him as I watched on television the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. and the actor Sam Elliott recited some of Ray's new memoir book titled "Every Man A Hero" and then walked to the front row and greeted Ray. Then about a week later, Ray was in attendance at Normandy and at President Trump's speech at the memorial ceremony taking place there. Trump talked about Ray's service in his speech and greeted him on stage. I have read Ray's book and it is an amazing account of what he and his unit went through during the war. Having him tell me those stories in person was just an awesome experience that gave me chills. What a true hero among heroes!

Army Medic Sgt. Ray Lambert - Photographed 8/20/19Army Medic Sgt. Ray Lambert - Photographed 8/20/19Jeffrey Rease 2058210770

850_8091-sm850_8091-smJeffrey Rease 2058210770 IMG_5255IMG_5255

Ray was showing me a pipe that a German pilot gave to him as he was dying after being shot down. Ray still doesn't know why he gave it to him—perhaps in hopes he could get it to his family, or as a gesture of goodwill. IMG_5249IMG_5249

A photo of "Ray's Rock" on Utah Beach which served as a place of protection from enemy fire for soldiers ray and the other medics attended to on D-Day.


The next veteran I met was one of the youngest to ever enlist in the Army. James O. Schmidt enlisted at the age of 14, fooling the recruiters with a fib of some kind and his 6' 200 lb. frame certainly helped. He was later discharged, but not before he jumped with other paratroopers into Sicily. He was sent home and then promptly joined the Navy. He was very determined. After six months or so he was discovered again to be under age and sent home. Then after some time serving in the Merchant Marine on ammo supply ships at age 18 he rejoined the Army and served after WWII in Germany and then in Korea and Vietnam.

Army Airborne paratrooper James O. Schmidt - Photographed 8/20/19Army Airborne paratrooper James O. Schmidt - Photographed 8/20/19Jeffrey Rease 2058210770

To complete the triple-play, I met Navy veteran Thomas Shook, a Pearl Harbor survivor who served on the USS Phoenix. He was reading the paper that Sunday morning of December 7, 1941 and heard some explosions and saw smoke billowing from the battleship USS Arizona nearby. His ship's crew sprang into action to try to escape the harbor and were successful in getting out. They spent a very quiet and dark night aboard ship out in the ocean after a horrific morning.

Navy veteran Thomas F. Shook, Jr. - Photographed 8/21/19Navy veteran Thomas F. Shook, Jr. - Photographed 8/21/19Jeffrey Rease 2058210770


Brenda S Hoss(non-registered)
A huge "Thank you for your service" to each of these veterans. Tom Shook was a personal friend of mine. He usually called me on my birthday, December 7, or I called him as I knew he was present at Pearl Harbor on the "infamous" day of the bombing. He has told me so many times the details of that day and how his ship was able to slip out of the harbor, unharmed. I just heard today, March 8, 2021, of the passing of my dear friend on March 6, 2021. His 100th birthday was January 22, 2021. God bless you, Thomas F. Shook, Jr. You will live in our hearts forever.
Diane K. Borden(non-registered)
I am a Mental Health Counselor, wife of a 21 yr. Veteran of the US Army, Vietnam Era, but was never in combat. I have seen the effects of service on so many friends of the family and clients. This website has served to help in the process of recovery from PTSD with my clients, as it is so honoring of their service, and invites sharing in ways that facilitates emotional healing and a salve to the soul for many. I continue to refer clients to just come here and read.
Roxanne (Randi) Shook Boone(non-registered)
I’m Tom Shook’s daughter, Roxanne. I want to thank you again, for honoring the men and women who gave more than just their services for our country. Your gift of sharing their words and portraits reminds us to be thankful for our freedoms.
Louise Bowen(non-registered)
I love reading these accounts by these heroes of ours. Not many of these dear souls left but you have honored them and I thank you. What horrendous things they went through just to keep us safe and to defeat those who would have destroyed our freedoms and those freedoms of other countries. May we learn from history!!
Shari Golla(non-registered)
Thank you for honoring these brave men. How lucky we are that they served.
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