A new tribute to local veterans was unveiled during a ceremony at Riverhead High School Tuesday.
Located outside of the school’s auditorium, the wall features a five-by-eight foot American flag and the names and dates of service of 89 veterans and fallen soldiers.
Speaking during a dedication ceremony, interim superintendent Christine Tona said it’s “humbling” to think that those recognized attended Riverhead schools.
“May these veterans inspire our students to work hard, persevere and for some, serve our nations so that our freedoms will continue to be protected,” Ms. Tona said.
High school principal Sean O’Hara said he was proud to unveil the memorial, which was named for Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn. “This beautiful tribute will honor our local heroes who served and sacrificed so much to defend and protect our great country and will serve as an example to all who walk through these halls,” he said.
Pfc. Langhorn posthumously earned the Medal of Honor, the most prestigious military decoration, as well as the Purple Heart. 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.
The Riverhead native was the only Suffolk County resident to earn the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
Members of Mr. Langhorn’s family were present during Tuesday’s ceremony, as were members of Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs, who was a member of the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing and died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2018.
The Wall of Honor was the idea of the town’s veterans advisory committee, which is led by Liz Stokes and Kimberly Judd, who pitched the idea in 2018. It’s one of several recent initiatives to honor Riverhead veterans.
In April, the town kicked off its Hometown Hero project throughout the downtown area, which displays the names and photos of locals who served on banners, which will remain up through June in honor of Memorial Day and then again from September through November to coincide with Veterans Day.
Councilman Ken Rothwell said when he was appointed to a vacant seat on the board in January, he was tasked with helping finish the wall of honor project.
“We always say we will never forget. Now we’re making sure that we never do,” Mr. Rothwell said. “Our children and our grandchildren will never forget and will always know their story.”
According to school district officials, there is additional space on the wall for other veterans to be recognized and more will be added as a group each Veterans Day.
Those interested in recognizing a local veteran are encouraged to fill out an application on the district’s website.