Young and fresh out of high school, Lambert Foster felt called to serve his country. Many of his family members chose that route before him, and when one of his classmates joined the United States Marine Corps – his sights set.
He joined the Marines at the first available chance, which is how he came to be stationed in the Persian Gulf in 1991, actively involved in Desert Storm, when his life changed forever.
He was taking part in a routine night maneuver, which led to a near-deadly collision between his convoy and another one barreling at him head-on. There was a flurry of commotion as he did all he could to remove himself from harm, furiously working to escape from the damaged truck-turned-prison.
“It ripped the left side of the cab off of the truck I was driving,” he said. As soon as he was free, he noticed a terrifying physical change. “My left leg went out from under me. I was in a lot of pain, and I knew that it was bad.”
Lambert was medically evacuated back to the United States where he was able to contact his family. He was initially placed in a facility in San Antonio, Texas. Based in Mena, Arkansas, his family drove to see him as soon as they could, and when they finally made it, they couldn’t believe his state.
“Initially – seeing the injury – they were heartbroken, but they were glad that I was still able to be there for them and with them.”
He had to have his left leg amputated from the knee down. He was moved to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City to be closer to his friends and relatives, many of whom visited him at his time in the hospital there. Once he got out, they even threw a homecoming party for him, which he remembers fondly.
“That was a good time because I got to see some of my classmates,” he said. “I was still young – a teenager basically.”
Although finally home, Lambert faced a new problem – namely – how to cope with the loss of his left leg. Lucky for him, word traveled fast through his support system, and he began receiving advice on different paths he might take.
He had a long road ahead of him – one which included three separate surgeries, each with a different recovery time, but he didn’t know that yet. At that relatively early juncture in his recovery, meeting other amputees who were out there overcoming obstacles and enjoying life was an inspiration that he needed.
“Seeing that people could continue on with life as an amputee was pretty encouraging,” he said.
In the beginning, Lambert’s family and friends helped him get out and about, and he managed to keep depression at bay.
“After everything was recovered and I started wearing a prosthesis, it became natural to put it on in the morning and wear it throughout the day and be able to walk without the use of crutches.”
At that time, in his 20s, he wasn’t particularly interested in going to the gym, running, or working out. But he did settle down enough to have a son and resume life. His main goal was to keep going every single day and find avenues to pay it forward.
Later on, after developing some goals of his own, he found Snell Prosthetics, and the team would help him achieve them.
“I broke a prosthesis, and as a veteran, I came to the VA, and I was asking them about who I could go to to have it repaired, and they mentioned the name, Snell. So I came over to Snell, and I’ve been here with them ever since.”
For Lambert, the thing that truly sets Snell Prosthetics apart is their commitment to helping him achieve his goal. There’s a deep foundation of care that he hasn’t seen anywhere else.
“I know Frank really cares because I went through a time that we couldn’t get a fit – I was having problems with my tibia – you know he never gave up,” said Lambert. “Frank never gave up, and his team was there to support me even through the discomforts that I was having.”
Through all of the time he spent with Frank and the team at Snell, he achieved his new goals – to run in 5Ks, supporting causes near and dear to him, and ultimately to pay it forward.
“My volunteering is really important to me. I’m able to travel and meet other people and to pay it forward because even though they may not be an amputee, they need encouraging words.”
He first began to give back through running.
“There were three things I said I was going to do,” he said. “Number one, I want to run for anything that supports the children. Number two, I’m going to support anything with the military. Number three, anything with cancer patients. I’ve been able to accomplish that with the first three 5ks that I was able to run.”
Through his running, he went to New York to run a 5K in honor of a fallen firefighter – Stephen Siller – from the tragic 9/11 attacks. During that particular 5k, the military gets a 30-minute headstart, and Lambert had never seen anything like it.
“I ran that with the military group. Seeing other amputees and running beside other amputees –that was really encouraging that people never gave up on life, and that encouraged me not to give up, as well.”
The foundation that puts on that particular 5K – Tunnel To Towers Foundation – has other programs they manage. Lambert connected immediately with a group of people out of that foundation that specializes in building homes each year for a first responder or veteran with limited mobility, as well as homes for returning soldiers.
“One of the guests that I volunteered with at the New York organization, he wanted to do more for the military men and women that were coming back and were injured,” he said. “So we started our own smaller organization, and then we wereable to help the military. Each year we build a home for them. To see that – to start with just a raw slab, a concrete slab – and to give them the keys in 10 days to their forever home.”
Lambert continues to pay it forward through that program – A Soldier’s Journey Home – and he continues to be an inspiration to other amputees, as well as a supporter of Snell Prosthetics.
“I always recommend Snell and say to those in need of prosthetic services, ‘Hey, if you’re not getting a good fit why don’t you give Snell a shot.’”
Lambert’s shot with Snell changed his life for the better.