The second Friday in October will be designated as “Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn Day” in Riverhead Town, under a proposal scheduled to be adopted by the Town Board Tuesday.
U.S. Army Private First Class Garfield Langhorn was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration, for his heroism in Vietnam in 1969. His legacy continues to live on in numerous ways throughout Riverhead Town, including last year when a Veterans Wall of Honor at Riverhead High School was named in his memory.
On Jan. 15, 1969, Pfc. Langhorn threw himself on a live grenade, smothering the explosion with his own body, thereby saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. He was 20.
His last words were “somebody’s got to care,” according to First Lt. Charles Campbell.
“Pfc. Langhorn’s selfless, split-second decision preserved the lives of the platoon leader and those already wounded,” the Town Board resolution says. “His extraordinary heroism at the cost of his life is in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service, and reflects great honor on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.”
Councilman Ken Rothwell sponsored the resolution.
“Every year, Pulaski school students have an essay contest about what Garfield Langhorn’s means to them,” he said. “It’s always on the second Friday of October.”
“There’s a committee that’s been put together to read those essays, and of them are Pfc. Langhorn’s family and friends,” he added.
The plan is to have the essay contest coincide with Garfield Langhorn day,” Mr. Rothwell said.
“We wanted to recognize Garfield more predominantly because he’s the only Riverhead resident that received the Medal of Honor for the Vietnam War,” said Tom Najdzion, Commander of VFW Riverhead Post 2476, and a member of the committee.
“He kind of got the short end of the stick, being a Vietnam guy,” he said. “People really didn’t like that war back then.”
Pfc. Langhorn was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1970.
Pfc. Langhorn has also awarded the Purple Heart and was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 1998. He is honored locally through the work of the Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn Memorial Association as well as many other tributes in town.
A bust of Pfc. Langhorn sits in front of Riverhead Town Hall and the Riverhead Post Office has been named after him. Family members also attended a ceremony last year for the unveiling of the Hometown Heroes banners in downtown Riverhead. Pfc. Langhorn was featured prominently alongside Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs, who died in 2018.