In his honor

VFW’s Cpl. Matthew Lembke Hall dedicated

By Stover E Harger III

The Times, Aug 26, 2009, Updated Oct 30, 2009

Jaime Valdez / The Times

NEW HALL, NEW NAME – Claudia and Dale Lembke, next to their daughter Carolyn, officially dedicated the new home of the Tualatin VFW Post 3452 as the Cpl. Matthew Lembke Hall, which was named after their son who died July 10 after being injured in Afghanistan.

On a bright Wednesday morning in Tualatin, the message was clear. The ultimate sacrifice of Cpl. Matthew Lembke should never be forgotten.

Temporary lettering on the window of the new location for the Tualatin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452 showcases a new name, the Cpl. Matthew Lembke Hall. But soon a permanent brass plaque will be erected, letting those who pass by remember the Tualatin Marine, who died July 10 after sustaining injuries in war-torn Afghanistan.

The new hall, at 18820 S.W. Boones Ferry Road, was dedicated Wednesday with about 100 dignitaries, VFW members and locals in attendance. In the front row were Matthew’s parents Dale and Claudia Lembke and his sister Carolyn. Smiles graced their faces while speaker after speaker talked highly of the young man.

Right after Matthew’s name was placed on the building, Dale Lembke said he was right out there with his camera. Both he and Claudia say it is a great honor.

“We are very honored,” Dale said. “It is exciting. We told all our relatives.”

The new VFW hall is located on the top floor of one of the oldest structures in Tualatin, the historic red brick “Robinson building.” Although the building was constructed in 1912, the new hall feels sparkling new. A fresh coat of paint, nice furniture, a state-of-the-art kitchen and decorations fill the space that the VFW Post hopes will be an important spot, not just for veterans, but for the greater community.

Trying to find a new location — so they could move out of the worn-down and now demolished “Patriot Hall” at 8455 S.W. Seneca St. — has been a nine-year process, said Dale Potts, spokesman for the VFW Post.

Private developer David Emami, who owns both old and new locations, kindly let the VFW transfer their lease to the Boones Ferry location, Potts said. If it wasn’t for Emami — who, along with his wife Diana, was also honored Wednesday with the very first “VFW American Patriot Award” — Potts said the move wouldn’t have happened. The VFW just weren’t able to find a suitable space for a low enough price.

“I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen,” Potts said.

The Boones Ferry building, once the Robinson’s Store and more recently Rich’s Kitchen, was set to be demolished by Tualatin’s development commission a few years ago, but Emami stepped up in 2006 to put out the money to preserve the dilapidated structure.

The decision to name it after Lembke was a unanimous one, Potts said, and the least they can do to honor the much-loved soldier and 2005 Tualatin High School graduate.

Lembke was wounded on June 24 by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Now Zad, Afghanistan. He died in July from an infection from his wounds.

“I can not bring Matthew back to you, but I can tell you his name will always be here,” Emami told the Lembke family at the dedication.

The previous night a reception was held, in part, so the Lembke family could be presented with special medallions from the Bend Band of Brothers veterans group.

“The whole community, as you know, mourns, and is thankful…” Ogden told the family at the private reception.

Bill Bussey, a Vietnam veteran, presented the family with the honors, he said, as respect to the service of the brave young man.

Oregon’s only living Medal of Honor recipient and Bend Band of Brothers member Robert Maxwell also came to the reception and dedication to pay his respects. Maxwell used his body to cover an enemy hand grenade during World War II, garnering him the high honor.

“I think it’s great that this community has chosen to do that,” he said about the VFW naming the hall after Lembke.

Lembke was the 115th military member with ties to Oregon to die in Afghanistan, according to a letter from Gov. Ted Kulongoski that was read at the dedication.

Ron Holland, commander of VFW Post 3452, said he hopes the new hall can help the Post become even more of a part of the community, and help returning soldiers with free seminars, finding jobs, and getting physical and mental health care.

As part of this outreach, the Post hopes to create a Men’s Auxiliary group to help boost their small membership. The Auxiliary would be for relatives of people who served in a war, similar to the already existing Women’s Auxiliary. They need 40 members to get it started.

As people filled the hall after the dedication, many spoke of how much of an improvement the new location is.

“I just think that young people are going to want to be here,” said Tualatin Chamber of Commerce CEO Linda Moholt. “It’s beautiful, it’s not a dump anymore.”

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