10/12/13 12:00pm
10/12/2013 12:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn's mother Mary Langhorn with this year's essay contest winners Pulaski Street sixth graders (from left) Christine Thomas, Laniece Hutley, Nina Geraci and honorable mentio Summer Scott.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn’s mother Mary Langhorn with this year’s essay contest winners: Pulaski Street sixth graders (from left) Christine Thomas, Laniece Hutley, Nina Geraci and honorable mention Summer Scott.

“I think we can all learn something from Garfield, we can do something kind and thoughtful for many people in many different ways.”

So said Nina Geraci on Friday, reading from her winning essay in the Pulaski Street Elementary School’s 9th Annual Garfield M. Langhorn Essay Contest.

Ms. Geraci was one of three winners selected in the contest, in which 289 sixth graders wrote essays about Private First Class Garfield Langhorn, the Riverhead man who was posthumously awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor after giving up his own life by jumping on a live grenade to save other soldiers in the Vietnam War on Jan. 15, 1969.

At the time, he was just 24 years old.

In addition to Ms. Geraci, the other two winners were Christine Thomas and Laniece Hutley, while Summer Scott got an honorable mention award.

As she does every year, Garfield Langhorn’s mother, Mary, was present Friday to give out the awards and to serve as one of the five judges for the contest.

“It’s beautiful,” Ms. Langhorn said afterwords. “There were more essays this year than ever before.

“It was really fantastic,” said Clarence Simpson, the vice president of the Suffolk Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, who attends every year as well.

“Garfield graduated from this very school in 1967, filled with the vision of a life he planned to create,” said keynote speaker Trevor Hewitt, an English teacher at the school who is taking over the role of coordinator of the contest from Mary Anne Harroun, who has continued to help plan the contest despite having retired two years ago.

The Pulaski Street School building was the Riverhead high school when Garfield Langhorn attended. The current high school was built in 1971.

“I thought I knew what a sacrifice was, but when I learned about Garfield Langhorn, I truly understood what the word sacrifice means,” said Christine Thomas, reading from her prize-winning essay. “Garfield Langhorn sacrificed his life to save others.”

She described him as a “huge hero and an inspiration to others, especially people in Riverhead,” and she Garfield Langhorn inspires her to help others.

“He did it without looking for recognition or a pat on the back,” Laniece Hutley said of Pfc. Langhorn in her prize-winning essay. “He did it because probably somewhere in his childhood, his parents taught him that true friends are there for you through thick and thin.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/28/10 8:01am
12/28/2010 8:01 AM

JENNETT MERIDEN RUSSELL PHOTO | Mary Langhorn of Riverhead at a ceremony on Monday dedicating the Riverhead Post Office in honor of her son, Private First Class Garfield M. Langhorn, a Medal of Honor recipient. The portrait of him is by artist Gerald Slater of New York City will hang in the Riverhead Post Office.

When an enemy hand grenade landed in the middle of his platoon, U.S. Army Private First Class Garfield M. Langhorn did not hesitate: The young man threw himself on the explosive device and sacrificed his own life to protect the lives of his fellow infantryman.

That heroic incident occurred more than four decades ago, and yet the quiet young man from Riverhead who gave up his life during the Vietnam War remains a legend among locals.

Some 500 people, including dignitaries, relatives, veterans and inspired residents, attended a September ceremony dedicating the Riverhead post office in honor of Pfc. Langhorn, a Medal of Honor recipient. The 20-year-old Riverhead native was killed in Vietnam in 1969.

Vietnam veteran Bob Elrose, who was at the event, called Pfc. Langhorn “the greatest hero to ever come out of Riverhead.” Gerald Slater of New York City painted a portrait of the young hero that now hangs in the post office. And Congressman Tim Bishop presented Pfc. Langhorn’s mother, Mary Langhorn, 86, of Riverhead, with a copy of the legislation bearing the signature of President Obama, as well as the pen Mr. Obama used to sign the legislation.

Pfc. Langhorn, who loved working on his car, playing guitar and being a part of his church, was remembered by many as a good Christian who regularly read the Bible and had a heart of gold.

According to a witness account, Pfc. Langhorn was standing between his platoon leader and wounded soldiers during an attack. Suddenly a ripping sound came out of the woods and a hand grenade landed next to him and the wounded.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Pfc. Langhorn threw his body onto the live explosive.

He was killed instantly.

Outside the post office, Ms. Langhorn said her son had not wanted to go to Vietnam but dutifully went into battle.
“If he were here, he would say, ‘I did what I had to do,’ ” she said.