By Stover E Harger III
The Times, Jul 15, 2009, Updated Oct 30, 2009
Matthew was a well-respected and loved local who has been serving in the Marines since graduating from Tualatin High School four years ago. News of his injury and subsequent death has caused an outpouring of support from the community and beyond as many share thoughts and memories about the man, remembering his love of life, dedication to the military and positive outlook.
The Lembke family shared their thoughts after his death in an online journal devoted to Matthew:
“We have lost our son and brother too soon. He walked early, talked early and now he has left us early. We have been so blessed to have the support and prayers of so many. We want everyone to know that all of our – and your – prayers have not been in vain; we will always treasure these 15 days that we have been with him, to comfort Matt and each other.”
Injured while on patrol
Matthew, a scout sniper in the Marines, was patrolling in the Taliban-heavy region of Now Zad, Afghanistan, on June 24, according to the Department of Defense, when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded. He lost both his legs and suffered heavy internal injuries. He was on his third tour of duty, having served twice before in Iraq. and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
On July 13, the Department of Defense reported the death of two other Marines – from different battalions – who were killed during combat in the same section of Afghanistan that Matthew was injured in.
The Associated Press reported that Matthew stopped breathing while being treated by a medical team just after the explosion, but he was eventually brought to a relatively stable condition.
After moving through an Afghanistan hospital and German medical center – where he was met by his parents Claudia and Dale, and sister Carolyn – Matthew and his family ended up in the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. At Bethesda, Matthew underwent surgery after surgery and battled infections.
Matthew’s family spent the last few weeks by his side, praying for his recovery and doing their best to comfort him.
On Tuesday, July 7, his mother said that they were beginning to see improvements, even though progress was slow and Matthew was not responsive under the heavy sedation. As she and her family prepared themselves for a long recovery process, Matthew took a turn for the worse. He developed an aggressive infection after surgery the next day and on the morning of July 10, Matthew died.
His death has been a blow to his family and friends. They have shared their thoughts in a Facebook group created by longtime friend Nick Carney, who along with his mother Alex, has been in close contact with the Lembke family over the course of Matthew’s struggles and since his death.
The “Lumpe’s Status” Facebook page (viewable by searching on www.facebook.com) has nearly 400 members who have used the forum to communicate with Matthew’s family and each other. Soldiers who served with Matthew speak of his devotion to his country and to the military, while old friends fondly remember “Lumpe’s” (his high school nickname) sense of humor and joyful outlook on life.
“He was always having a good time,” said Nick Carney. “I don’t remember any times when he was sad or depressed or anything.”
Matthew was an “irreplaceable friend,” said Michael Koster, who grew up next door to him since they were just about 10 years old.
“He was definitely one of the best people I’ve ever met, a great friend,” he said. “He was like a brother to me.”
Growing up, Koster and Matthew spent most days together, playing sports, sitting in the back of his truck, enjoying the outdoors and laughing. Many of his old friends have spent the time since hearing about Matthew’s death together, helping each other through the sorrow.
After Matthew joined the Marines he matured, Koster said, but never lost what made him special to so many people – his cheerfulness, caring attitude and desire to excel.
“He was still Lumpe,” Koster said.
News of Matthew’s injuries quickly spread around the city and beyond. Well-wishers sent cards, made calls and donated money to the Lembke family to help them through their hard times. After Matthew died, Tualatin has been in mourning. The city has asked that flags be flown half-staff.
“We are hoping to keep his memory in the Tualatin eyes forever,” said Dale Potts, spokesperson for the Tualatin VFW Post 3452.
Matthew’s Tualatin High School football coach Craig Hastin remembers his player as a hard worker who you could always depend on – a skill he believes that he brought to the military as well.
“As a coach we could always depend on him to do his very best,” Hastin said. “He was an outstanding young man.”
Memorial set for Monday
Matthew was proud of what he was accomplishing in the Marines, Nick Carney said, and when he was done serving he wanted to further his education and possibly work toward getting a job in government or law enforcement.
Dale Lembke is expected to return from Maryland today (Thursday) with his son’s body. A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, July 20, at Resurrection Catholic Church in Tualatin, 21060 S.W. Stafford Road. Following the church service, interment with full military honors will be held at Willamette National Cemetery, 11800 S.E. Mount Scott Blvd.
Alex Carney visited Claudia Lembke on Saturday at her Tualatin home and said the grieving mother is broken up over Matthew’s death but thankful for the widespread support her family has received.
“The outpouring of support is more extensive than she could have imagined,” Alex Carney said.
Memorial service for Matthew Lembke
When: 10 a.m. Monday, July 20
Where: Resurrection Catholic Church in Tualatin, 21060 S.W. Stafford Road
Internment: Following the church service, interment with full military honors will be held at Willamette National Cemetery, 11800 S.E. Mount Scott Blvd.
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