The legacy of one of Riverhead’s greatest heroes will continue to shine through a semipostal stamp.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced Friday he had introduced legislation for a second time to create a semipostal stamp in honor of U.S. Army Private First Class Garfield Langhorn, who died 52 years ago in Vietnam at the age of 20. The stamps are sold at a premium price to raise funds for a nationally recognized cause.
In this case, the funds would go toward Supportive Services for Veteran Families, a Department of Veterans Affairs program that offers assistance to low-income veteran families who are in the process of transitioning to permanent housing, according to a press release from the congressman. The program provides grants to private nonprofits that provide services to promote housing stability for veteran families.
“In his final heroic act, 20-year-old Pfc. Langhorn selflessly sacrificed his own life to save his fellow soldiers, throwing himself on a live grenade to save his platoon mates,” Mr. Zeldin said.
In 2019, Mr. Zeldin announced similar legislation during an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pfc. Langhorn’s heroic act. The PFC Garfield M. Langhorn Memorial Semipostal Stamp to Benefit our Veterans Act of 2019 was introduced on Jan. 17, 2019, and referred to a pair of committees. No further actions were listed on the bill, according to congressional records.
Venetia Lewis, who attended the 2019 ceremony at the Riverhead Post Office named in memory of her uncle, said on Tuesday that she was “very excited” about the latest development.
“This is great news,” she told the News-Review, adding that she was unaware of the new legislation.
She added that she wasn’t sure what transpired with the original bill in 2019 to create the semipostal stamp. Her grandmother, Mary Langhorn, who was Pfc. Langhorn’s mother, died a few months after that ceremony in May 2019, just shy of her 95th birthday.
On Jan. 15, 1969, Pfc. Langhorn threw his body onto a grenade to save the lives of fellow soldiers, several of whom had already been injured during a mission to recover the bodies of two pilots whose helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. Pfc. Langhorn was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the most prestigious military decoration, as well as the Purple Heart.
The Riverhead native was the only Suffolk County resident to earn the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
“There is no better way to honor Pfc. Langhorn than remembering his sacrifice and continuing to give back to our nation’s brave servicemen and women,” Mr. Zeldin said. “It is only fitting that this legislation to honor his memory also helps provide additional funding to veterans in need.”
A spokesperson for Mr. Zeldin said there was no change in the legislative text from the 2019 bill and added that a new Congress requires reintroducing the bill.