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Pulaski Street students honor Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn in annual essay contest

Pulaski Street intermediate school honored Riverhead’s Vietnam War Hero Private First Class Garfield M. Langhorn during their annual essay contest ceremony held at the school on Oct 14.

Pfc. Langhorn posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor in April 1970 and became Riverhead’s only recipient of the honor, according to a press release by the district.

He received the award for saving the lives of wounded comrades by throwing himself on a live grenade.

The contest requires sixth graders to define what being a hero means to them and to reflect on how Pfc. Langhorn’s example inspires them to become a hero in their community as well.

Out of hundreds of submissions, four winning essays were selected and read aloud at the ceremony. The winning students for 2022 were Adelaide Boese, Mckayla Bozza, Keion Edwards and Rachel Zheng.

The winning essays all spoke about how PFC Langhorn’s example inspires the honorees to find ways to help their community.

“Pulaski pride was overflowing at the ceremony,” said assistant principal Callan Lonergan. “Garfield Langhorn inspires us all to be the best we can be for our school, district and community.”

The essay contest was inaugurated at the school in 2004 with only 34 entrants. Over the years, Pfc. Langhorn’s story and example has inspired students at the school and the community, with over 400 essays submitted this year. 

In a press release, the district noted that several special guests attended the ceremony, including Joan Brown-Smith, who was Pfc. Langhorn’s fiancé, Rich Kitson and Clarence Simpson, the president and vice president of the Long Island Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America.

Other special guests included The Patriot Guard Riders, the organization whose members, at the invitation of a decedent’s family, attend the funerals of the U.S. military and first responders. Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar was also present at the ceremony, which coincided with the first “Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn Day” recognized by the Town Board this year.

Pulaski Street Intermediate School Principal, Patrick Burke spoke about the importance of recognizing local heroes.

“Every year our essay contest teaches students about the courageous Vietnam War hero Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn from Riverhead,” he said in a press release. “It is important for kids to recognize our local heroes and try to emulate the excellent example that Langhorn set for his platoon and Americans across the nation.”