Veterans Wall of Honor planned for Riverhead High School

A Veterans Wall of Honor planned for Riverhead High School will acknowledge graduates who have served in the military.

The Wall of Honor will be dedicated to two Riverhead veterans: Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs, who died in Iraq earlier this year as a member of the 106th Rescue Wing, and Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Garfield Langhorn, who gave his life to save others during the Vietnam War. 

The display, to be placed outside the high school’s ROTC office, will feature a photo of each service member and their years of service against the background of an American flag, according to a proposal from the Riverhead Town veterans advisory committee. It’s one of several projects the committee is planning to recognize local veterans.

“We have nothing in place at the school to honor graduates who have been in the service,” Liz Stokes, who co-chairs the committee with Kimberley Judd Burns, said at last Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session, where they discussed many of the committee’s plans.

The group aims not only to honor, but also to assist the many local residents who have served in the military.

“Kim and I will raise funds for whatever it costs separately, and the high school shop classes will make the flag,” Ms. Stokes said. “It will be no cost to the town. And once that flag is up, the ROTC students will be responsible for putting new names up each year. It’s a legacy we can leave within that school.”

The committee is now asking local veterans who want to participate to email a photograph and bio of themselves to [email protected] Mattituck High School completed a similar project last year.

“We’re hoping to have this complete by Veterans Day,” Ms. Stokes said.

An online Dog Tag Project at Riverhead Town Hall is another planned effort that will acknowledge local residents who served in the military.

Former councilman John Dunleavy suggested the project in 2016, Ms. Stokes said. He sent a letter to anyone receiving a veteran’s tax exemption asking them to send a picture and short biography describing their military service.

The goal is to build a database of local veterans not only for the town website but also for display on a monitor at Town Hall, Ms. Stokes said. Each veteran’s picture would be presented on a dog tag that users could click to learn more about that individual, she said.

“I don’t think that should be a problem,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said. “It’s just a matter of displaying it on a TV screen.”

The veterans advisory committee was formed in 2014, after Ms. Stokes and others scheduled “Operation Forever Grateful” in 2012, where more than 300 people packed Polish Hall in Riverhead to pay tribute to about 55 Gulf War veterans in attendance.

Ms. Stokes said at the time that a primary goal of forming the committee would be to eventually document the bravery of the town’s veterans to share with future generations.

After Operation Forever Grateful, she said, “We saw the big picture of the hurt that was in this town. Veterans were made promises across this country and this town that were broken.”

The committee began working to connect local veterans with medical, legal and housing services and help them apply for tax deductions available to veterans.

“We talked to veterans and asked them, ‘What can we do?’ ” Ms. Stokes said.

One project they launched in 2014 was a discount card that qualifying veterans can present at participating local stores for discounts on various items. To date, more than 2,000 cards have been distributed to eligible veterans, who can receive discounts ranging from 10 to 50 percent at 22 businesses.

Other projects include helping homeless veterans find housing and naming the town’s recreation trail in Calverton the Vietnam Veterans Recreation Trail.

Although the current projects will include women who have served, Ms. Stokes said a future goal of the committee is to separately and specifically honor the town’s female veterans.

[email protected]

Photo caption: U.S. Chief Master Sgt. Harold L. Hutchison, command chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, coins Airmen at New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, Westhampton Beach, New York on October 3, 2017. Chief Hutchison thanked the members of the 106th for their hard work and dedication to saving lives during the Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief efforts. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel H. Farrell)