The 11th annual Pfc. Garfield Langhorn Memorial Essay Contest winners were announced at Pulaski Street Elementary School Friday morning by associate principal Stephen Hudson and music and chorus teacher Trevor Hewitt, who was the keynote speaker.
Private First Class Garfield M. Langhorn was a Riverhead High School graduate who was posthumously awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor after giving up his own life by jumping on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War on January 15, 1969. He was 20 years old.
The theme for this year’s essay contest was “Inspiried by PFC. Garfield Langhorn, what would a person your age do?” (Scroll down to read the winning entries)
The essays that were chosen were written by twins Olivia and Alexandra Goodale, Haylie Esposito and Dominic Geraci. The students each received a $50 Target gift card and a CD of poems by essay judge Robert “Bubbie” Brown of the First Baptist Church.
Friday’s ceremony was kicked off with the Riverhead High School NJROTC color guard and the Patriot Guard Riders standing at attention.
“What is a hero?” Mr. Hudson asked to the students at the assembly. “This is a time to stop, remember and recognize Pfc. Garfield Langhorn.”
This year’s event was coordinated with the help of retired teacher Mary Anne Harroun and the memorial committee of the First Baptist Church in Riverhead.
The contest has grown in popularity. In its first year, the essay contest, which is open to all sixth graders, had 58 entries. This year there were 270.
PFC Garfield Langhorn’s mother Mary made the trip up from Virginia where she now resides with daughters April Armstead and Anna Mack.
She was seated on stage with Joan Brown-Smith, who was Mr. Langhorn’s fiance at the time of his death. Mrs. Langhorn said that the annual event is important to her and the community. She praised the way the school is “keeping the memory of Garfield alive, him being the only African-American in our community to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
Ms. Brown-Smith felt the the quality of the essay writing was “better than ever.” She makes the trip from her home in Maryland every year.
“It is just such an honor to be part of it every year,” she said. “Garfield was such a special guy. He was always full of life.”