Lambert the youngest commander in H.W. Daniels Post 29 history
Editor’s note: This article is part of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series for 2020, which features veterans in our area sharing first-hand accounts of their military service. The series will be published through Veterans Day.
ELKINS — An Elkins native and active member of the West Virginia Air National Guard is the youngest individual to have served as Commander of the American Legion H. W. Daniels Post 29.
Donnie Lambert enlisted in the West Virginia Air National Guard in 2014 and is a traditional Guardsman. His family has had a strong history of military and police service.
“Just about every person in my family has served in the military but it was actually witnessing the terrorist attacks of 9/11 on the television in elementary school that made me transition from wanting to be a police officer to wanting to be in the military,” Lambert said. “It was a dream that took 13 years to complete, but when I was able to complete it, it was something I had promised myself that I’d stay in for as long as I can. I guess I’m a part of it for the long haul.”
Lambert attended boot camp in Texas, which he described as being flat, hot and cold, all at once.
“Boot camp actually wasn’t bad. None of us expected it to be anything like it was. We were expecting things from ‘Full Metal Jacket’ to happen,” he said. “We were yelled at to get off the bus and then just waited forever and a day inside the processing facility. When we got to our squadrons, the drill sergeant pretty much said that this is not anything like what ‘Full Metal Jacket ‘was.”
“It was a lot more mental things that they kind of worked on with us to instill the discipline into us,” he said. “I think the most difficult thing for me was just being away from home for two and a half months. I was used to being away from home with the Boy Scouts but the military is a lot different. I think back on it half the time now and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, it wasn’t nearly as difficult, but it was certainly something I don’t ever want to do again in my life.”
To stay in touch with family during basic training, Lambert was allowed three phone calls; one when he arrived, one “about halfway through,” and one before graduation. Otherwise, trainees were allowed to write letters.
After basic training, Lambert went on to attend technical school in the Air Force, where he studied services.
“I was able to come home for about six months after basic. I graduated in December of 2014 and then left for tech school at Fort Lee, Virginia in June of 2015. That was on an Army base but I was with the Air Force side of things,” he said. “We had our own barracks that we shared with the Navy. It was a six-story facility with the first two floors being used for the Navy and then the upper four floors being used for the Air Force.”
“With services, Air Force services, we learned in tech school about dining facilities, about being a cook, about lodging affairs. It was basically a lot of the hotel aspects of things,” he said.
“We actually learned all of those aspects in a deployed situation. We basically went to a spot in Fort Lee that best resembled a deployed location and we cooked out of there for a day.”
Lambert has not been deployed for active duty and has made the most of his time at home by joining various veterans organizations around the state.
“At 22 I became the youngest Commander of Post 29. I actually just relinquished the title of Commander. I’m no longer the youngest Commander but I am District Commander,” he said. “I’ve been a member of the Legion since I got out of basic training. Before I became Commander, the only office I held was First Vice Commander.”
Lambert is also the Department Membership Vice Chairman for Legion Districts 2, 9 and 10. He is also a member of AMVETS and the local Freemasons.
“A lot of these members are so much older than I am but treat me as an equal with them because of being in the military and also seeing that the organization needs to survive,” he said. “They’re teaching me what I need to know to keep the organization going forward.”
Lambert studied history and political science with a minor in military science at Glenville State College. He graduated in May of 2018 and started his masters degree in legal studies from West Virginia University in January of 2019.
In the future, Lambert would like to go on to practice law or become a college history professor.
“It’s been an interesting six years, both in the Guard and the Legion itself,” he said.