PULASKI CELEBRATES 10TH PFC garfield langhorn essay contest
PFC Garfield Langhorn was a 1967 Riverhead High School graduate who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. For ten years, the Pulaski Street School has honored the memory of PFC Garfield Langhorn, and his act of heroism and valor in the Vietnam war is the inspiration for this 10th annual sixth grade essay contest.
Langhorn attended high school when it was located in the Pulaski Street School building. He studied in that same library, and two years after graduating, on January 15, 1969 at the age of 20 in the Vietnam War. Garfield's efforts that day ended in his death. An enemy grenade was thrown into the circle where the wounded soldiers waited to be rescued. PFC Langhorn pulled the grenade under his body and absorbed the blast to save his fellow soldiers. For that, Langhorn was posthumously awarded the nation's highest award, the Medal of Honor, by President Richard Nixon in 1970. Nixon handed the award in a White House ceremony to his mother, Mary Langhorn, who lives in Riverhead.
On September 16, 2011, the Board of Education named the Pulaski Street School Library after PFC Garfield Langhorn. A bronze plaque bearing the new name of the library has been placed over the library’s entrance and, Inside the library directly across from the doors and prominently displayed, another bronze plaque with the details of PFC Langhorn’s life is installed under a print of the original painting by Gerald Slater, which hangs in the PFC Garfield M. Langhorn Post Office on West Main Street.
Each year the Pulaski Street School hosts an essay contest which culminates in a moving ceremony in memory of PFC Langhorn. The Vietnam Veterans of America sat as a unit and the Patriot Guard Riders, who carried large American flags, lined the back of the auditorium. The theme of the ceremony is in the form of a question posed to the students who participate in the essay contest: "Inspired by PFC Garfield Langhorn's actions, ask yourself, 'What can a person your age do to help others?'" Music teacher Trevor Hewitt gave a moving biographical overview of PFC Langhorn's life and death. This year's speakers included: Congressman Tim Bishop, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and PFC Langhorn's sister.
The essay winners read their winning essays. Mary Langhorn, Garfield Langhorn's mother, received a standing ovation as she rose to present the winning essayists with gift cards. The winners of the PFC Garfield Langhorn Essay contests are pictured above in the front row with Mary Langhorn L-R: sixth graders Christopher Donnelly, Alisha Griffin and Reilly Hubbard. They were joined on stage by the previous essay contest winners who are still in schools throughout the district.
Pulaski Street Principal David Densieski noted, "When the essay contest was started 10 years ago, there were 58 entries that first year, last year we had 289 entries. This year, we had 272 entries from the 6th grade class."
As Congressman Bishop said in his presentation to the sixth graders in the auditorium, "Every time you walk into your school library, think of what he (Langhorn) did and use that as an inspiration to strive to be the best that you can be."
"I want to thank everyone for being here for this celebration," Mary Langhorn, Garfield's mother, said simply after the winning essayists read their essays honoring her son.
ESSAYS: Reilly Hubbard / Alisha Griffin / Christopher Donnelly
VIDEO: PFC Garfield Langhorn Library Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
VIDEO: Riverhead Post Office renamed for hero
PHOTOS: Pfc. Garfield Langhorn