For the first time in many years, an Oregon VFW Post has significantly upgraded its facilities. Tualatin Post and Auxiliary 3452 dedicated “Cpl. Matthew Lembke Hall” on August 26 with a bevy of state and local elected officials as well as local VIPs, Medal of Honor recipient Bob Maxwell, and VFW officials.
The hall was named for the popular Tualatin Marine, known locally as “Lumpe”, a nickname from one of his football coaches. The Oregonian did front page stories on Lumbke’s being wounded in an IED explosion while on foot patrol in Afganistan, hospitalization, death, body flight and funeral. It was his third tour in the Middle East. The dedication also made the front page of the Oregonian, along with details of a private ceremony where a group calling itself “Bend Band of Brothers” provided the family with medallions in the shape of military dog tags, military coins and a plaque covering the Marine’s military history. This group has been quietly comforting Oregon KIA families with these for over a year.
Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden was the MC for the dedication ceremonies which included State Senator Richard Devlin and State Representative Scott Brunn . Frank Evans, Governor Kulongowski’s Policy Advisor on military and veterans affairs and Emergency Preparedness read a letter from the Governor. There was also a proclamation from the Honolulu City Council where Lembke was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Div, III Expeditionary Force,
Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
According to Past Post Commander, Dale Potts, this move has been a plan in progress for nine years as the Post leadership recognized the need to modernize its facilities to attract the young veterans it wants to help. The need became evident as Posts in surrounding towns; Lake Oswego, Wilsonville, Sherwood and Tigard, have closed in recent years. The Post wants to be a gathering place for all veterans, with special emphasis on Oregon military members returning from Iraq and Afganistan.
A Navy Vietnam Vet who served as Post Commander for five years, Potts explained it is important that this country never repeat the treatment it gave to military members from that war, and that VFW Posts continue to bring in younger members to take care of future generations. Potts said that the Post named the Hall to honor Lembke. It is located on a major intersection in Tualatin at 18820 SW Boones Ferry Rd. Because Lembke was widely known in the community, as people pass by, his story will help remind people of the many sacrifices made by US military personnel – soldiers, airmen, and Marines –around the world.
Developer David Emami was remodeling the Robinson 1912 red brick building, the oldest commercial building in Tualatin, on the same block where the old VFW hall was located. He had saved it from it from demolition. He said he became interested in helping after reading that the Post was providing telephone cards to Oregon military serving in the Middle East. He said it choked him up with emotion when he realized that the phone cards were giving soldiers access to their families at Christmas and other holidays. At the dedication, Emami told the Lembke family “I can not bring Mathew back to you, but I can tell you that his name will always be remembered, that naming the hall after him will ensure that he is remembered.”
The Post transferred its property in exchange for the top floor of the landmark building, condominium style. It has a separate entrance and elevator. The Hall is advertised by a modern colorful sign facing the street and has a flag pole along side a European style fountain, and well tended colorful flower beds.
Emami has already demolished the previous building, known as Patriot Hall. With that and adjacent property, he is constructing a multi-story building with underground parking. A three year project, it will have retail and first floor and offices on upper floors. When completed, Tualatin VFW has lifetime rights to parking in the complex. At the Dedication ceremony, Emami and his wife, Diana, received Tualatin VFW’s first annual American Patriot Award.
The new facility has a top-of-the-line commercial kitchen and a bar that would be the envy of any Starbucks. In addition to plaques showing unit adoptions and national awards, the walls are lined with tasteful artwork and a flat screen TV.
One local reaction was typical. Tualatin Chamber of Commerce CEO Linda Moholt said, “I think that young people are going to want to be there. It’s beautiful, not a dump anymore.”
At the Dedication, Post Commander Ron Holland announced the formation of a Men’s Auxiliary and Mayor Lou Ogden was the first to sign up. Holland also explained that the Post plans to promote practical seminars on employment, schooling, medical and mental health and family issues. He said the Post plans to use rentals to cover building and overhead expenses initially until it can build up its membership to support a regular member canteen operation.