Smithfield man recognized

SMITHFIELD – Walking onto Heinz Field to be introduced and honored for past accomplishments doesn’t happen often.

On Dec. 29, it happened to Lt. Col. Jason E. Lambright of Smithfield, who served with the Army for 19 years, and the ceremony occurred before the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Cleveland Browns.

His service to our country was something that movies are made but Lambright is quite humble about everything.

“I went over and did a job. I’m honored and pleased with the ceremony but this type of recognition should go to all who have served in dangerous situations,” he said.

“I just wish my entire team of 12 men could have been with me for the occasion. It was this team who was imbedded into an Afghanistan unit with me to make their Army more effective in fighting within the U.S. Army. Our team instructed the Afghanistan soldiers about ways to make their Army more effective,” Lambright said.

“At the Battle of Taghanak, the unit made the Afghanistan soldiers take the objective and encouraged them to do their proper jobs,” he said.

Lambright and his unit received a Medal of Valor at an awards ceremony in Dublin in September, but his list of accomplishments is much longer.

He enlisted in October 1991 after graduating from Buckeye Local High School, and he served in Southwestern Asia and Africa, Central Asia and three tours in the Middle East and Central Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sinai Peninsula.

During his service, he was in a building that was blown up, and fought in close combat with the enemy.

His call to duty took him to Operation Provide Comfort during Desert Calm in 1995-96; Operation Coronet Oak and Operation Palmeto Ghost, both in South America; Operation Iraqi Freedom; Operation Enduring Freedom; Operation Deliberate Force; and back and forth between Afghanistan and Iraq; and the Sinai Egypt Peace Keeping tour.

When informed of the honor by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Lambright had to make some important decisions. Since he was presented with four top-quality seats to the game, he had to decide the three who would attend with him.

“As I said, I would have liked my entire team of 12 be there, but that couldn’t happen.”

His first choice was his father, Jack, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was in the Vietnam War and a Browns fan; Lt. Col. Howard B. Pearce, commander of Jason’s 12-man team; and Garren McHugh of Smithfield who had been his friend for many years.

Lambright, 39, claims he didn’t do anything anyone would not do in the same circumstances and is quite humble about his feats.

He met his guests on the field as he walked out of the tunnel with a hearty wave and was featured on the stadium’s video board.

“We attended a VIP buffet and had sideline passes to the game,” explained McHugh who thought the whole thing was “pretty cool.”

“We had lunch at a buffet and there was an actress from the ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’ television show, Miss Pennsylvania and a member the ‘N Sync band there,” Lambright explained.

He was so laid back about the celebrities that he asked a young man there if he was part of a veterans group, only to learn that he was a member of ‘N Sync. He followed “the celebrities,” in his words, onto the playing surface at Heinz Field and met up with his three guests.

During the third quarter, Lambright was announced again and came out on the field by himself.

He admits this was a strange feeling. “I just wished my entire team of 12 could have been there with me,” he said once again.

While serving in the Army, his, Willemijn or “Will,” stayed in Smithfield for many of his 19 years. His youngest daughter, Hester, 9, was born while he was away.

“She is my Army baby,” he smiles.

Sara, 13, had to miss her dad at more holidays and birthdays than Hester.

One thing about having the sideline seats was that a football came through the air looking as if it would be a straight shot to their seats.

“They were awesome tickets,” he complimented.