JENNETT MERIDEN RUSSELL
Mary Langhorn of Riverhead at a ceremony on Monday dedicating the Riverhead
Office in honor of her son, Private First Class Garfield M.
Langhorn, a Medal of Honor recipient.
When an enemy hand grenade landed in the middle of his wounded platoon, 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 in the small town.
On Monday, family members, local dignitaries, fellow veterans and many who had never met the brave young soldier gathered in front of the Riverhead Post Office to remember PFC Langhorn and to rename the building in his honor.
Flanked by members of various Vietnam Veteran motorcycle clubs holding large American flags, more than 500 people huddled beneath a large tent for the ceremony as a light rain drizzled outside.
“I’m just lost for words,” said PFC Langhorn’s mother, Mary Langhorn, 86, of Riverhead, holding a dozen fresh roses and wiping the tears from her eyes. “It’s just beautiful and I thank everybody for coming out.”
PFC Langhorn, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, loved working on his car, playing guitar and being a part of his church. He was remembered by many as a good Christian who regularly read the Bible, and someone who had a heart of gold.
Ms. Langhorn said her son did not want to go to Vietnam, but dutifully went into battle and paid the ultimate cost in service of his country.
“If he were here, he would say ‘I did what I had to do,” Ms. Langhorn said simply.
The renaming of the Riverhead Post Office in honor of the lost soldier was the brainchild of Richard Kitson and Al Carvalheira, who are members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 11. Mr. Kitson, who is president of the local VVA chapter, thanked Congressman Tim Bishop for writing the federal legislation that made the renaming of the post office a reality.
“There’s nothing more significant happening in this town, in this state in this country than what’s happening in Riverhead with the renaming of this post office,” Mr. Kitson said, noting that he appreciated the fact that PFC Langhorn had been raised to be a conscientious Christian by his family.
“For those of us who have been in combat, you really don’t know how you’re going to react until that moment happens and because of where Garfield came from and the loving spirit of his family