'We love the people': 82nd Airborne Division inducts fifth Hall of Fame class

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The nine paratroopers inducted into the 82nd Airborne Division’s fifth Hall of Fame Class were selected because they changed the division, the division’s commander said during a ceremony Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Christopher LaNeve, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said current paratroopers “stand on the shoulders” of the veteran paratroopers who were honored.

This year's inductees join 21 inducted in the inaugural class in 2018, 16 inducted in 2019, 12 inducted in 2020 and eight inducted last year.

They range from officer to enlisted ranks, and five are still living today.

“You’ve changed our society, and you’ve changed our Army, and it’s fitting that we honor you in this way,” LaNeve told this year’s inductees.

More:82nd Airborne to induct nine into 2022 Hall of Fame

Being a paratrooper

For retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bryant Lambert, 26 years of his 36-year Army career was with the division.

Lambert said Fort Bragg was the first place the Army sent him when he was 19 years old.

He said he spent a lot of his time on Ardennes Street learning from paratroopers who served in Vietnam before he deployed to Grenada as a young soldier in support of Operation Urgent Fury.

Lambert rose through the division’s ranks to become its senior enlisted adviser in July 2010, and he also served as command sergeant major for Regional Command-South and Combined Task Force 82 during Operation Enduring Freedom from October 2011 to September 2012.

“I’m just ordinary like any other paratrooper, and I just love being in what I call my 82nd Airborne Division, and I thought that I didn’t do anything different,” he said. “But it’s an honor, and I’m humbled to be here today and to be inducted into this Hall of Fame, because everything that I have learned, I learned from someone else, and I learned from the soldiers, I learned from the leaders.”

Lambert currently works with the Army Futures Command and said he sees that the division is moving into the future.

For retired Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the 82nd is where he spent his formative years as an officer, he said.

“It’s the center of my career,” Scaparrotti said. “It’s what taught me to be a leader and an officer.”

Scaparrotti became commander of the division in October 2008 and deployed with the headquarters to Afghanistan, where he served as the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force 82 and Regional Command East on Oct. 15, 2010.

He later became commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, director of the Joint Staff in 2012 and commanded U.S. Forces Korea and the U.S. European Command, before retiring from the Army in July 2018.

Scaparotti said he was inspired by fellow inductees, Capt. John Sauls and Col. Benjamin Vandervoort, who served in the division during World War II, and retired Command Sgts. Maj. Wolf Amacker and Bryant Lambert.

A family

Amacker, who retired this week as Fort Bragg’s range officer, served in the division for more than 10 years, from 1996 to 2006.

Amacker said during his time as the division’s senior enlisted adviser, he served alongside Lt. Gen. William Caldwell.

During that time, the command team established the first Iraqi army training center in 2003 to build up Iraqi forces to protect themselves

Amacker also came up with the idea for the division to have an Operation Iraqi Freedom memorial after returning from a deployment in 2004 to honor paratroopers killed in action.

The division, Amacker said, will always be his family.

“There's an old saying here that it’s not so much we love what we do as we love the people we do it with, and that’s the comradery,” he said. “The comradery in the 82nd is unique and far above any other organization in the Army.”

Amacker said he became a paratrooper because he was intrigued watching his father and other paratroopers jump onto the Sicily Drop Zone growing up.

“Now I’m fortunate enough to have two sons who are paratroopers, third generation paratroopers, currently in the Army,” he said.

Vandervoort was represented by his grandson Richard Vandervoort.

Col.  Vandervoort served in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment from 1940 to 1945 and was the regiment’s operations officer during the invasion of Sicily and Salerno, Italy.

He commanded the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the invasion of 1944 Normandy, leading his battalion into combat in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Nijmegen and in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and led an assault on the Waal bridge in Holland,

He earned the oak leaf clusters for his Distinguished Sevices Cross and two oak leaf clusters for his Purple Heart for his actions in Holland.

Col. Benjamin H. Vandervoort
Col. Benjamin H. Vandervoort

Richard Vandervoort said his grandfather was brave and tough with a servant’s heart.

“The one thing that stood out to me was his love and dedication for Waverly Way,” Vandervoort said.

Lt. Wray, who was also an inductee this year, served as a platoon leader and the executive officer of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment from 1940 to 1944.

Wray also participated in airborne operations into Normandy and Holland in support of Operation Overlord and Operation Market Garden.

During the defense of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Wray’s company was attacked by two reinforced Nazi battalions.

Despite enemy machine gun fire and casualties, Wray crawled in front of his lines, destroyed the position with grenades and killed 15 enemy soldiers with rifle fire.

After orders to conduct an attack on the rest of the German battalion, Wray found a battalion headquarters of eight Nazis who he killed to enable his unit’s defense.

Wray was later killed in action at the age of 21 during operations in 1943 in Holland.

1st Lt. Waverly Wray
1st Lt. Waverly Wray

Vandervoort said his grandfather tried to get members of Congress to approve Wray as a Medal of Honor recipient.

“He’d say Waverly Way deserves the credit today,” Vandervoort said.

Other inductees

Other inductees into this year’s Hall of Fame include:

• Capt. Gerald A. Wolford served in the 82nd Airborne Division from 2000 to 2006.

As a staff sergeant deployed to Iraq in 2003, the gun section of Wolford’s Company D, 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry came under fire during a river crossing in As-Samawah, Iraq.

As his unit approached the city, a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle, wounding two paratroopers.

Wolford moved the wounded paratroopers to safety before his vehicle was struck a second time when escorting a dismounted squad to a forward position.

Wolford continued directing section fires and engaging the enemy when a third rocket-propelled grenade denoted near his truck, and a fourth grenade passed over his head.

For his actions, Wolford was awarded the Silver Star and selected as the 2003 USO Soldier of the Year.

He commissioned into the infantry branch in 2006 and finished his career as an information operations officer at the Department of the Army Headquarters in the Pentagon.

• Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, who served in the division from 1983 to 1986. Mason commanded the 407th Support Battalion and supported logistics and planning within the division to include being a support command operations officer during the no-notice deployment to Grenada for Operation Urgent Fury.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason
Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason

• Capt. John B. Sauls, who commanded Company G, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment, and led a June 8, 1994, attack against Nazis who hindered Allied movement west from Normandy.

Without cover or concealment, Sauls and his company charged toward the Nazis, as Sauls made it across a corridor to shoot them with his Thompson submachine gun.

For his actions, Sauls earned the Silver Star. He died in 1987 at the age of 73.

• Cpl. John S. Gilbertie served in the 82nd Airborne Division from October 1917 to May 1919, which included serving as an infantryman and squad leader in Company E, 327th Infantry Regiment during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns of World War I.

Gilbertie earned the Distinguished Service Cross for volunteering to lead nightly patrols into enemy territory to carry messages from the front lines to battalion and regimental headquarters in October 1918 near Cornay, France.

Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at rriley@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3528.

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This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: 82nd Airborne Division inducts 2022 Hall of Fame pararoopers