PFC Garfield Langhorn's sister, Yvonne Langhorn Reid, stands at the veterans wall of honor named for her brother, who was killed in Viet Nam in 1969. Photo: Alek Lewis

Riverhead High School unveiled the PFC Garfield M. Langhorn Veterans Wall of Honor this afternoon. The wall holds the names of 89 veterans and fallen soldiers who attended the Riverhead Central School District.

The wall, located in the lobby of the school’s auditorium, lists the names and dates of service for most honorees on a silver plaque, with those who have died while in service honored on a gold plaque.

“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 of honor, outstanding citizenship, dedication, discipline and perseverance,” high school pPrincipal Sean O’Hara said.

The wall is named for Langhorn, a private first-class and a graduate of Riverhead High School, who was drafted to serve in Vietnam in 1968. He served as a radio operator in the Army and was killed by throwing himself on a grenade to shield injured soldiers during a rescue mission. Langhorn is the only Riverhead graduate to receive the Medal of Honor and the only Suffolk County Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient.

The wall is a product of three years of collaboration between Riverhead schools, the town board and the town’s veterans advisory committee. Councilman Ken Rothwell said he was assigned to complete the project when he was appointed earlier this year.

“We always say we will ‘never forget’,” Rothwell said. “Now we’re making sure that we never do, and our children and our grandchildren will never forget and will always know their story.”

Photo: Alek Lewis

In attendance were members of Langhorn’s family. Yvonne Langhorn Reid, Langhorn’s sister, said she felt proud to see her brother’s name on the wall of the high school.

“I think it’s wonderful to honor the men and women that we’ve lost and those who have served,” Reid said.

Langhorn’s cousin, Russell Langhorne, said he was inspired by Langhorn to join the Marine Corps. Langhorne served from 1972-1976.

“He inspired me to want to go and represent this country and to fight for this country,” Langhorne said.

Among the living veterans honored on the wall was Ronald Mack, who served in the Air Force from 1970-1996.

“It really feels good to be here,” Mack said. “I appreciate the Town of Riverhead and Riverhead High School doing this for us.”

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar with Eli Briggs, grandfather of Dashan Briggs, who was killed in Iraq in 2018. Photo: Alek Lewis

Also in attendance was Eli Briggs, the grandfather of Tech. Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, who was killed in a helicopter crash while serving in Iraq in March 2018. Briggs, like Langhorn, was honored with a gold plaque.

“It means a lot to me and my family, and his wife and kids,” Eli Briggs said. “He was a great young man… I hope he will be an encouragement to other young people, that they will do whatever they want to do in their life and give it their all, because that’s what he did.”

The wall has space for additional veterans and service members to be recognized, and will be updated every veterans day. People can apply to be recognized by completing the application on the school district’s website.

Photo: Alek Lewis

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Alek Lewis
Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.