The mother and former fiance of Private First Class Garfield Langhorn held back tears Friday morning as the Pulaski Street School’s library was renamed in honor of their lost loved one.
Pfc. gave his life to save the lives of wounded soldiers in the Vietnam War in 1969. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions. To this day, he remains the only Medal of Honor winner from Riverhead.
In a ceremony Friday, a bronze plaque was placed above the entrance to the library and picture and plaque were also placed inside the library.
“His job is not done, as he continues to shine as an example,” the plaque inside the library reads.
When Pfc. Langhorn graduated from Riverhead High School in 1967, the high school was located at the Pulaski Street School, which is now an elementary school.
“It was very nice,” Mary Langhorn, Garfield’s 87-year-old mother, said after the ceremony, her eyes welling with tears.
“It was really nice,” added Joan Brown-Smith, who was Pfc. Langhorn’s fiancee at the time of his death. “The plaque was wonderful.”
Ms. Brown-Smith came all the way from Maryland for the ceremony. And over the past three years she’s made the trip to Riverhead to be in attendance when the winners of the Pulaski Street School’s annual essay contest in Pfc. Langhorn’s name are announced.
That contest kicked off again Friday, for its seventh year, and the winners will be announced on Oct. 14, according to teacher Maryanne Harroun, who coordinates the essay contest.
Jenny Corbin, a secretary at the school, is a cousin of Pfc. Langhorn and grew up with him in Riverhead. She recalled that he was in a band called the Gators, and that he was a baker.
“He baked the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted,” she recalled at Friday’s ceremony.
Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) also spoke at Friday’s ceremony.
“Try to imagine yourself in this situation,” he asked the students as he read from the Medal of Honor citation for Pfc. Langhorn, who threw himself on a live grenade, giving up his own life while saving the lives of wounded soldiers who were nearby.
“It’s very hard,” Mr. Bishop said. “Garfield was just 20 years old.”
Mr. Bishop said Pfc. Langhorn is a “true hero” and should serve as an inspiration to the students in the school.
A year ago, the Post Office branch in Riverhead was also named for Pfc. Langhorn.