‘Healing for Veterans’ at the Rancho Cordova Library

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG)  |  By Margaret Snider
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Chris Lambert, right, is with his wife and a South Vietnamese officer at the Hue City battle/massacre annual ceremony in Sacramento.

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - The program at the Rancho Cordova Library from 2-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 3, is titled Healing for Veterans. But it is meant to help anyone who’s had trauma or extreme grief in their life, and everyone is welcome to come. Admission is free and no registration is necessary. “If you just want to talk, or share, or are ready for a big change in your life, come meet Chris Lambert,” the program brochure states.

At the age of 18, in 1968, Lambert volunteered for the Marines during the Vietnam War. By the time he was 19 he had been wounded three times and was discharged. When he returned home, Lambert said, “If you just did something that in my perception you were in any way trying to go against me, I could turn on you in a heartbeat and hurt you.”  Married when he went into the service, his wife eventually divorced him, saying, “I married a sweet, kind, loving young man and you turned into an animal.”

For 12 years he lost himself in alcohol and drugs. He learned to help others with their problems when he went into recovery, but didn’t address his own combat issues until he retired. “I tucked Vietnam into a little private box after I got sober and I didn’t open that box for anybody,” Lambert said. Now 60 years old, married and retired with grown children, he may volunteer 50 hours a week, and presents his program around the country, all on a volunteer basis.

Though the primary function is for combat trauma, his program is not only for veterans. It includes others who have experienced guilt and terrible trauma, who need to forgive themselves and start the healing process. A lot of traumatized people want to run away when they see the doors opening within them. “But the longer you keep it in, it’s going to pick up more momentum in the negative area and the harder it’s going to be,” Lambert said. “Kind of like avoiding a cavity in your tooth, it just gets bigger and hurts more.”

Groups tend to be more effective than one-on-one therapy, Lambert said. His goal is to let people see that they have opportunities for a better quality of life. He likes to keep his program down to an hour and a half. He has a break within that time, with an eight-minute movie in the middle about the combat experience. “If I do a good job we’ll laugh and we’ll cry, and you’ll learn a bunch,” Lambert said.

He focuses on combat veterans because many of the young kids today have never had any kind of adversity. “We’ve been so busy not hurting their feelings that they have no skills,” Lambert said. “So you take a kid that for 21, 22, or 23 years has virtually seen almost no negative consequences. Then you train them for five, six, seven months, then you throw them into the worst place you could possibly be. And ask them to kill people.”  Worst of all is that there is nothing more exciting than a fire fight. “I think Winston Churchill said, ‘The most exciting thing in the world is being shot at, as long as you’re not hit.’ Then you come home and that high is really hard to replace,” Lambert said. “ . . . You’re with a great team, and all of a sudden you don’t have a team.”

Evelyn Figeroid, who helped open the Rancho Cordova Veterans Resource Center, discovered Lambert at a monthly meeting of Volunteers of America where he was presenting information about his program for veterans. Figeroid has since retired, but Rancho Cordova Library Branch Supervisor Jill Stockinger said of Lambert, “He’s considered like a national treasure and he goes across the United States doing these talks. People say he is truly amazing. He really helps people heal.”

Family members and friends are invited, as well. “In fact, it doesn’t have to be about a war if you’ve got a trauma or you’ve got a pain,” Lambert said. “I will talk about that when I start the presentation. Because we all have our own personal war.”