Local Catholics honor fallen Marine at funeral Mass in Tualatin
Marine Cpl. Matthew Lembke of Tualatin talks to two Iraqi children.
TUALATIN — A thousand family, friends and admirers of Marine Cpl. Matthew Lembke gathered at Resurrection Parish here Monday to say a tearful farewell and pray for a young Catholic soldier whose character sticks in the minds of his commanders.
Lembke, 22, died July 10 at a military hospital in Maryland. He had lost his legs and suffered internal injuries June 22 after a bomb blast in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, where he had been on foot patrol in a Taliban stronghold. Infection set in.
Photos from Iraq and Afghanistan show the lanky and kind-faced Lembke conversing with youths, enjoying their company and showing them just how caring Americans can be.
Flags flew at half staff in this Portland suburb, where Lembke, the son of Dale and Claudia Lembke, was a popular student and football player at Tualatin High School.
A coach had nicknamed him “Lumpe.” Internet tributes have shown that Lembke had a great many friends and was fun-loving. The local chamber of commerce set up a fund to help relatives travel and find lodging.
After rosary and funeral at the church, Lembke was buried with full military honors at Willamette National Cemetery. Gov. Ted Kulongoski spoke.
“Matthew was a dedicated soldier who served his country with pride, honor and courage,” Kulongoski said. “He will be forever remembered by friends and family and his sacrifice for our nation will never be forgotten.”
Lembke had been due to leave the Marine Corps in September. The sniper was serving his third combat tour and had qualified for a special platoon.
After the hidden bomb exploded in Helmand, Lembke was flown to the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. His parents and sister, Carolyn, flew from Portland to be with him. He then was flown to Bethesda in Maryland where doctors performed surgeries, trying to fight infection. The family had hope.
First Lt. Joseph Cull, Lembke’s platoon commander, wrote to the Lembkes from Afghanistan about what happened when the unit heard about the explosion.
“We had been operating for about four days straight, and sleep was short at hand for myself, and other Marines in the platoon. I came back from the radio, with Staff Sgt. Bustamante and we just sat down, silent and very much awake, regardless of fatigue. Soon word spread, our actions were mimicked by others all around, not due to the degree of Matt’s wounds, but because of the severity of his character, his bond with others and more importantly the profound respect all within our battalion have for your son’s professionalism and solid character.”
Cull told the Lembkes: “You have 26 sons, who are praying for his recovery every day, regardless of what we do, what hostilities are encountered in our day, he is with us, in our actions and thoughts.”
Marines who had lost limbs earlier offered support to the family.
Scott Jones, whose son Garrett, a Marine from Dundee, lost his leg in 2007 wrote saying, “Both my wife Phyllis and I SOO want to reach out to the Lembke family. We want them to know there is a Marine family living near them who has been through what they are going through.” Garrett Jones recovered and returned to duty and now is planning to attend Western Oregon University.
But doctors could not save Lembke, whose wounds were infected by debris from the explosion.
“Pray for my brother,” Carolyn posted on a Web site for family and friends shortly before his death. “All of a sudden, things are not looking so good.”
Strangers who had read news reports of Lembke’s death have sent
condolences from around the nation. Hundreds of friends at the
funeral told stories and viewed photos.