Flag-waving spectators and folks decked out in red, white and blue lined downtown Riverhead streets for the Memorial Day parade this morning.
The annual parade and wreath-laying ceremonies at the town’s war memorials is organized by the Riverhead Combined Veterans Committee. It features veterans units, the Riverhead High School NJROTC, the Riverhead High School marching band, Scout troops, volunteer fire departments and EMS, Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, council members James Wooten, Jodi Giglio, Tim Hubbard and Catherine Kent, Town Justice Laurie Hulse, Highway Superintendent George Woodson and County Legislator Al Krupski.
The parade stepped off at the corner of Pulaski Street and Osborn Avenue at 10 a.m. and stopped for ceremonies at the World War I monument — where the eternal flame burns — St. John’s Cemetery and the Civil War memorial in Riverhead Cemetery, before concluding with ceremonies at the War Memorial on the lawn of the Pulaski Street School. Ceremonies included prayers, the laying of wreaths, volley fire and “Taps,” played by Riverhead High School sophomore Brian Noone.
Judi Hettrick of Riverhead sang “God Bless America” during the service at the World War I memorial.
Ceremonies in Riverhead Cemetery included a tribute to Riverhead Medal of Honor Recipient PFC Garfield Langhorn, who is buried there.
“Fifty years ago, PFC Garfield M. Langhorn made the ultimate sacrifice and in doing so saved the lives of his fellow comrades,” Riverhead VFW Post Commander Tom Najdzion said. “PFC Garfield Langhorn is the only Suffolk County resident to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War,” he said.
“We honor the man, the soldier, the brother that gave himself so that others could be saved and live to go on,” Najdzion said. “Today we also pause to remember the mother of PFC Langhorn, Mary Jane Powell Langhorn, who passed away May 4, 2019 at the age of 94. May she rest in peace next to her son.”
For a list of Riverhead native sons who gave their lives for our country, see story:
American Legion Suffolk County Commander Mike Pankowski of Riverhead led the main ceremony at the War Memorial at the Pulaski Street School. He urged citizens to remember the true meaning of the holiday, which he said seems to get lost in summer kickoff celebrations and sales.
After the firing of a volley and the playing of “Taps” a final time, the high school marching band performed the Star Spangled Banner as Old Glory was raised to the top of its mast behind the brick war memorial dedicated to all of Riverhead’s fallen military members. The town supervisor gave concluding remarks, exhorting residents to remember the military members who gave their lives for their country and urging that “we can and must do more for our veterans.”
Evelyn DeFrancisco, the widow of World War Two veteran Danny DeFrancesco, a member of the Van Renselaer Skidmore VFW Post 2476 in Riverhead, who died in March at ag 94, was presented with a N.Y. State Assembly proclamation and a Congressional Certificate of Recognition by Tom Neppell, an aide to Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo. The Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient was a member of a battalion in the second wave of the assault on Utah Beach on D-Day. France honored De Francisco for his role on D-Day with the French Legion of Honor during ceremonies at West Point in May 2014.
“This means so much,” his wife of 64 years said after the ceremony. “We miss him terribly.”
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti
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