Many join the armed forces looking forward to make a career, because the military is deeply embedded in their family history, or because they want to serve our country. Others … because all of the above.
The history of Del Rio and Val Verde County is plentiful with great examples of patriotism and service, veterans who served, veterans who lost their life, and veterans who participated in key moments of American history. The late Clifford Lambert is one of them.
The native of Sierra Blanca was born to farm-working parents who passed away in a car accident before he reached two years of age.
He was brought to Del Rio, where he was raised by his mother’s sister Gertrudes Lopez and her daughter Corina Lopez, according to his obituary.
A veteran of World War II who served in the Army, Company L, 23rd Infantry Division, he joined the at the height of the war, in 1940.
Lambert, his service record shows, participated in one of the most epic battles in recorded history, the battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day, on June 6, 1944.
The 23rd Infantry Division landed in Northern Ireland, crossed water, and zig-zagged the enemy by rounding the Southwest tip of England, according to an article published by the News-Herald on July 4, 2000.
They landed on Omaha Beach, and continued through France traveling through Paris, Belgium, crossing the Rhine River into Germany, arriving in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.
Lambert participated in major battles and campaigns in Northern France, Ardennes, Central Europe and Rhineland, earning the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. His decorations and citations also include the Good Conduct Medal, EAME Campaign Medal with five Bronze Stars, American Defense Service Medal and the Distinguished Unit Badge with one Oak Leaf Cluster.
His family remembers him as a man of God, who dedicated his life to serve his faith after serving his country.
“He didn’t speak too much about the war, but it changed his life,” Lambert’s daughter Leticia Polanco said recently.
Lambert was honorably discharged on Oct. 5, 1945, after spending three of his five years overseas. These years impacted his life so greatly that he continued to serve his community throughout his life.
Shortly after being discharged, Lambert met and married his wife, Maria Irma Contreras. He became a civil servant with the U.S. Border Patrol where he worked until retiring in 1979.
In the early 1950s, Lambert joined Iglesia Bautista Buen Pastor, where he faithfully served and worshipped the Lord until he couldn’t do it anymore in early 2005.
“When he was in the war he lived through things that would make him wake up in the middle of the night,” said Orlando Polanco, Leticia’s husband.
Lambert promised the Lord to dedicate his life to serve the church if he made it out of the war, and he fulfilled his promise, Polanco said.
Lambert, 86, passed away in 2007, and was followed by his wife of 54 years one year later, but his legacy of service continues on through his family.