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Lawmaker wants Riverhead post office named for honored vet

When Garfield Langhorn, 20, joined the small, select band of Long Islanders who had been awarded the Medal of Honor - the nation's highest military award - everyone in Riverhead knew his name.

But, that was in 1969, during the war in Vietnam. Now, his mother, Mary J. Langhorn, said, some people in the community don't know who he was anymore, or even what that 40-year old war was all about.

They will soon get a reminder.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) has introduced a bill to name the new Riverhead post office building for Langhorn, who died in Vietnam after throwing himself on a hand grenade to save the lives of several already-wounded soldiers.

In a talk to the NAACP convention in Colorado, President Ronald Reagan in June 1981 said Langhorn's last whispered words were "you have to care."

There is a small bust of Langhorn in front of Riverhead Town Hall, and each year his mother takes part in the Memorial Day observance at Long Island National Cemetery at Calverton. There is also a memorial garden at his old school.

But, she said Wednesday, the memory of her son has faded from the community.

"Very few people know Garfield as a little boy," she said. "He used to walk the halls at church as an usher. They have an [annual] essay contest in his name at the Pulaski Street school . . . that was our high school when he graduated."

She noted that her son already has a building named for him, at Fort Campbell, Ky., the home of his former Army unit, the 7th squadron of the 17th Air Cavalry. "People in other states talk about Garfield," his mother said. "A few people around here do, too. Sooner or later, they will all find out about him."

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