Lamperts: A family of veterans

Clockwise from top left: Dennis Lampert, Donald Lampert, Ashley (Lampert) Vargas and Tyler Lampert.

BY LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Serving the country is an unintentional family tradition for the Lampert family.

The tradition begins with Denny, the patriarch of the family, who served in the Army from September 1958 to December 1960. In the next generation, Denny’s son Donny served in the Air Force from 1984 to 1988 before continuing to serve in the Air Force Reserve and the National Guard. Then, after graduating from Northeast Dubois High School in 2010, Tyler — the son of Doug and Cheryl and grandson of Denny — joined the Marine Corps Reserves. Most recently, Denny’s daughter, Ashley (Lampert) Vargas, joined the Coast Guard.

The tradition extends beyond Denny, even, as three of his uncles on his mother’s side served in World War II. That didn’t play a part in his decision to join the Army, however.

“They never would talk about it,” Denny said of his uncles. “You just knew they were in.”

In fact, none of the Lamperts ever encouraged anyone from the next generation to join the service. It just happened organically.

Not wanting to wait until he turned 21 to sign up for the draft, Denny went to the Dubois County Courthouse at age 19 to volunteer. Soon after, he found himself at Fort Knox for basic training and mechanic school. Then, he shipped off to Aberdeen, Maryland where he served as an Army mechanic. After his service, Denny returned to Dubois County and married his wife, Linda. The couple has nine children, 20 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Denny says he’s glad he served his country, but he wouldn’t want to do it again. Despite that, he thinks everyone should serve in the armed forces at some point.

“I think it does kids a lot of good to go and do something for the country,” Denny said. “You learn a lot of things: discipline, how to take orders.”

While for Denny joining the military was just something all young men did, for Donny it was a life-long dream. As a child learning about the sacrifices key American leaders such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln made to make the country and world a better place, Donny felt a need to protect their legacies. To him, the military seemed to be one way to satisfy that need. He joined the Air Force in 1984, and attended the security police academy at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas after basic training. He trained with the Army Special Forces, including a Green Beret. That became one of his favorite memories from the service.

After security training, Denny was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Missouri, where he was involved in guarding nuclear warheads and was a member of the elite guard, the missile combat competition, and special weapons and tactics teams.

“I loved it,” Donny said. “I didn’t plan on getting out.”

But he and his then-wife Mary wanted to raise their children near their families in Dubois County. The desire to have children trumped the desire to remain in active duty, so Donny transitioned to the Air Force Reserves in 1988, and served as a security police officer at Grissom Air Force Base north of Kokomo. The next year, he was hired as a jailer at the Dubois County Security Center, so he transitioned to the National Guard unit in Jasper where he worked in intelligence. He is currently finishing his second term as Dubois County’s sheriff.

When Ashley said she wanted to join the Coast Guard, Donny was proud, but careful not to sway her decision.

“It becomes something very sacred,” Donny said of the bond built by two family members serving. “I wanted it to be her dream, not mine. And it became her dream.”

Ashley joined the Coast Guard about two years ago after graduating from Oakland City University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology. She heard about a career opportunity in the Coast Guard that piqued her interest, so she joined and immediately put her name on the list for marine science technician school. There’s a two-year wait for the school, but in January she’ll finally begin. In the meantime, however, she’s been stationed all around the U.S. After basic training, she was stationed aboard a ship in Honolulu, Hawaii where she went on patrols to Costa Rica, Alaska and Mexico. From there, she moved to San Diego where she’s currently stationed on land responding to water emergencies.

Ashley said she and her dad, Donny, can relate a bit more now having both gone through the military in some way. Although each branch is different, Ashley said, there is some overlap.

Although her grandfather’s and father’s service didn’t lead her to join, she admits it’s neat that three generations of her family have served.

“It’s sort of neat to keep that going,” she said. “It’s a unique family thing we had going.”

Ashley isn’t the only Lampert from her generation to serve. Her cousin, Tyler, joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 2010 after graduating from Northeast Dubois High School. For Tyler, the military had always been intriguing. He still remembers visiting Crane Naval Base on a field trip in high school, where some of the personnel showed the class some of the gadgets developed there, like night vision goggles. At one point, the presenter told the students that they could be part of the work there. That stuck with Tyler, and when graduation neared, he considered the military. His parents, Doug and Cheryl, suggested he talk to his grandfather, Denny, and his uncle, Donny, about their service.

“That gave me a little bit more of a push,” Tyler said.

Tyler spent his years in the service stationed in Missouri as part of the military police force. At the time, he said, he was disappointed that he wouldn’t deploy, but looking back, he’s glad things worked out the way they did.

Tyler is currently living in Jeffersonville, Indiana studying to be a mechanical engineer.

“[The military] has given back dividends to me,” he said. “I’m proud to have served this great nation.”

Pride in their military service is a sentiment all the Lampert veterans share, but they’ll never brag about it. They also don’t consider themselves heroes, instead believing that people can serve the country in multiple ways: being a parent, working as a janitor, just doing whatever it is to live a dream.

“That is no different than what we did,” Donny said. “They’re serving their country in their own way. I don’t like to see military people put on a pedestal because we were servants of the people.”

Still, having all served gives Denny, Donny, Ashley and Tyler a special bond and an appreciation for their country and her people that none of them believes they’d have otherwise.

“By all of us doing that and going through that, we became better people,” Donny said. “And we appreciate our fellow countrymen.”




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