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Not forgotten; Friends to honor Vietnam casualty.

Byline: George Barnes

GARDNER - It has been 44 years, but Martin J. Tessier has never gotten over the death of his friend Marine Lance Cpl. John Gemborys, who was killed July 30, 1967, while on patrol in Vietnam.

Lance Cpl. Gemborys was serving as point man in the patrol near Da Nang in South Vietnam when a bomb set as a trap exploded, tearing through his squad. He died of wounds caused by the bomb.

The explosion also left an empty place in Mr. Tessier's life, for he had lost one of his best friends from his high school days and a fellow Vietnam veteran who died not long after Mr. Tessier came home safe.

"I've been carrying the thought of John with me for the past 44 years," he said. "When I think of John, I think of everyone who served there."

Lance Cpl. Gemborys was one of 11 young men from Gardner who died in Vietnam or from wounds suffered in the war. The others, all listed with him on the city's Vietnam memorial, include Fidele J. Bastarache, Francis J. Coulombe, Roger O. Charland, Larry E. Kartunen, William G. LeClair, Emile J. Legere, Curtis W. Moore, Thomas A. Powers, Ronald W. Cardona and William F. Bronson Jr. Lance Cpl. Gemborys had only been in Vietnam three months when he was killed.

Mr. Tessier, an Athol resident who grew up in East Templeton, said he got to know Lance Cpl. Gemborys through a friend, Paul Saari.

"In grade school, we would all just hang out together," he said.

That continued in high school, where they would get together for such things as teen dances in Gardner City Hall.

"We were like a hanging gang, Gardner and East Templeton," he said.

Mr. Tessier remembered Lance Cpl. Gemborys as a handsome guy, popular and personable. In June 1964 they all graduated from high school. In July, Mr. Tessier enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam from November 1965 to December 1966. When he returned home, he learned Lance Cpl. Gemborys

had also enlisted in the Marine Corps.

"I remember thinking at the time, `It's not a party over there in Vietnam,'" he said.

Mr. Tessier said he worried about the possibility of his friend going to Vietnam, but he moved to Arizona about that time and the next thing he heard concerning Lance Cpl. Gemborys was that he had been killed in action.

Over the next four decades, Mr. Tessier said, he thought about his friend and what he could do to honor him.

Learning that Lance Cpl. Gemborys only has a flat military memorial plaque on his grave, Mr. Tessier

decided to do something about it. He developed a plan to buy a memorial stone for Lance Cpl. Gemborys. Enlisting advice from Cleo E. Monette, a former city councilor who once worked with Mr. Tessier on prison work programs, and former Mayor Daniel Kelley, a Vietnam era veteran who has been active with local veteran organizations, he went to work. They showed what was required to erect a stone, and made suggestions about whom to contact to get the project done.

Mr. Monette and Mr. Kelley said they both helped some with contacts and advice, but Mr. Tessier has been the force behind the effort.

Mr. Tessier said the project has snowballed, as many people have come forward with donations of money and items for a raffle at a July 15 fundraising event.

"It's been amazing," he said.

The result is that on July 30, the 44th anniversary of Lance Cpl. Gemborys' death, Mr. Tessier and other veterans and community members will erect a memorial gravestone on Lance Cpl. Gemborys' grave, paid for through donations collected locally and from people in other parts of the country who knew Lance Cpl. Gemborys and served with him.

Mr. Tessier said he is still raising the $4,500 cost, but the stone has been bought and will be ready for the dedication ceremony.

The ceremony is expected to include participation by local veterans organizations, the state and local Marine Corps League and the local Police Department, with which Lance Cpl. Gemborys' two brothers, Brian and Bruce, both served. Other participants may include members of Lance Cpl. Gemborys' squad; Patriot Guard, which assists families of soldiers killed in war; and local officials.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Veteran Martin Tessier of Athol kneels near the grave of his high school friend John Gemborys at St. John's Cemetery in Gardner on Saturday. Mr. Tessier is raising money for an upright gravestone for Mr. Gemborys, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:9VIET
Date:May 30, 2011
Words:772
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