Langhorn essay contest winners announced

TIM GANNON PHOTO Mary Langhorn, center, the mother of Garfield Langhorn, Riverhead's only Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, with the winners of this year's Garfield Langhorn Essay Contest, from left, Kamaria Harris, Amanda Brown, Joseph Gorgone and Anthony Marin.It's a year where the memory of Riverhead's only Congressional Medal of Honor winner was honored even further by having the Riverhead Post Office named after him.But the sixth-grade students in the Pulaski Street Elementary School have been paying their respects to Private First Class Garfield Langhorn every year for the past six years.

On Friday, the winners of the school’s annual Garfield Langhorn Essay Contest were announced, and this year’s total of 174 entries blew away the previous record of 130, set last year. The contest had 58 entries in its first year, according to Principal Dave Densieski, who said it continues to grow. Click to read the winning essays.

Private First Class Langhorn was born Sept. 10, 1948, and died Jan. 15, 1969, at the age of 20, when he threw himself on a live grenade in Vietnam, absorbing the blast thereby saving the lives of several other soldiers.

He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 7, 1970 for his actions.

“In this contest, students are asked to define how they can demonstrate the traits of heroism, courage and nobility in their daily lives,” teacher Trevor Hewitt said.

The winners were Amanda Brown, Kamaria Harris, and Joseph Gorgone, and Anthony Marin received honorable mention.

“If PFC Langhorn hadn’t unselfishly acted when he did, many soldiers would not be here today,” Amanda wrote. “He is a guardian angel that still watches over us all.”

“PFC Langhorn did not die for no reason,” Joseph wrote. “He died to help us remember what’s important. Sometimes you have to put other people first and not be selfish and always think of yourself.”

“When I first heard the story of his life, all I could think of was ‘WOW,’ what a brave man,” Kamaria wrote. “How someone could sacrifice himself to save the lives of his fellow troops.”

She added later, “His act of bravery and courage can teach us all a lesson about life.”

“As an 11-year-old boy, I can learn from this caring, brave man how to put others feelings before mine,” Anthony wrote in his essay.

“They were terrific, and there were so many entries this year,” said Mary Langhorn, Garfield’s mother, who attends the essay contest ceremony every year.

“Every year, I think they’re getting better,” said Robert “Bubie” Brown, one of the judges of the contest. “And it’s not just this essay contest, but the Juneteenth Essay contest as well. I don’t know if the teachers are getting better or the kids are paying more attention or what, but the writing skills are continuing to improve.”

“They were great,” said Clarence Simpson, a board member of the Vietnam Veterans of American. “I was one of the judges and it was my very first time, and I’m looking forward to coming more times in the future. I’m just glad for the support that the school gives him every year.”

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