While PBS’ annual Memorial Day Concert is mainly known for its musical performances, one of the standout moments of the 2019 concert was not musical at all.
The moment featured seasoned actor Sam Elliott, known for roles in films such as Tombstone and A Star is Born.
Elliott, who served in the National Guard when he was younger, has also taken on a number of roles in films that focus on the military and military figures. Through the years, he has portrayed Sergeant Major Basil Plumley in We Were Soldiers, Army officer Sam Damon in Once An Eagle, and Union Cavalry General John Buford in Gettysburg.
With all this in mind, it makes perfect sense why Elliott was selected to share the story of another American military hero during the National Memorial Day Concert.
Staff Sergeant Ray Lambert served during WWII, and was the lead medic who hit Omaha Beach during the first wave on D-Day. His big brother, Bill, was also there that day, and before the invasion the two promised to take care of each other’s families should anything happen to them.
What happened next is what Elliott shared with the crowd of thousands gathered at the National Memorial Day concert in 2019. He recited Lambert’s harrowing account of the invasion, and how he pushed through such a terrifying situation in an effort to save his fallen brothers.
Despite being shot in the arm right away, Lambert knew he didn’t have time to worry about himself.
“I was thinking of only one thing, getting to the men who needed me,” Elliott said as he told Lambert’s story.
From there, Elliott relayed how Lambert suffered yet another injury, but still pushed through in an effort to save as many men as he could.
“You did the job you were trained to do. If you didn’t, you died,” a tearful Elliott recited.
He told the story of how one man passed away in Lambert’s arms because there was simply nothing he could do for him.
In a chilling line, Elliott revealed that only seven of the 31 men on Lambert’s boat survived long enough to make it to the beach.
While helping a soldier in the water, a boat ramp came down and struck Lambert on the back, crushing two vertebrae. Lambert prayed to survive, but not for selfish reasons. Instead, he prayed that he would live so that he could help save just one more life.
After saying his prayer, the boat backed away and Lambert was able to save himself and the soldier in the water. The next thing he remembered was waking up on a boat bound for England, and he found himself right next to his brother Bill.
Both Lambert brothers survived the D-Day invasion, and Bill lived to be 92. Lambert was 98 years old at the time of the 2019 Memorial Day Concert. He was there to watch Elliott share his account.
Powerful, touching moment after Sam Elliot read SGT Ray Lambert’s account of D-Day. Elliot did a phenomenal job and showed such respect to this military hero. #MemorialDayConcert #DDay #MemDayPBS pic.twitter.com/JvaRAQYXRf
— Gina (Applegate) Lee (@shoes4gina) May 27, 2019
After Elliott finished reciting Lambert’s harrowing tale, he made his way into the crowd to personally thank him for all he had done. His voice full of emotion, he said it was an “honor” to meet Lambert and share his story.
Now it’s time for you to hear Lambert’s story by tuning in to the video below.
According to ArmyTimes, Lambert died in April 2021 at the age of 100. May he rest in peace.