[Editor’s Note: Story updated June 1st at 1:54 A.M. BW originally wrote these two brave men were Mount Vernon Firefighters from the information in Mayor Richard Thomas Statement. Several readers pointed out Griffith and Valentino were not members of the Mount Vernon Fire Department but the Third Street Fire House was named after them. We stand corrected]
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Black Westchester is thankful for all those who fought for us and have given their lives so that we may live in freedom. On Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 2016, The City of Mount Vernon honored two of its own, John Howard Griffith and Anthony Robert Valentino.
“I am humbled by the sacrifice the Griffith and Valentino families have made,” Mayor Richard W. Thomas said in a statement, “and I know there are many more families who have felt the same pain in our Mount Vernon community.”
Griffith and Valentino did not hesitate to answer the call when the time came to fight for their country. They headed to Vietnam where they served with honor and distinction. Sadly, both young men lost their lives while in battle. Now, on the 50th anniversary of their passing, the City of Mount Vernon will pause again to recognize them for their valor, bravery, and devotion to freedom. The city named its Third Street Fire House after Griffith and Valentino in the early 1980’s.
“Being this the 50th anniversary of both Griffith and Valentino being killed in action we thought it would be in the best interest of the city and fire department to honor those young men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country and representing our city,” Acting Fire Commissioner Ernest Richardson tells BW. “Especially having the 3rd St. Firehouse named after them.”
John Howard Griffith (Panel: 04E – Row: 128 on the Memorial Wall), born October 21, 1946 was a private first class for the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He died on February 01, 1966 at the age of 19 .
Anthony Robert Valentino (Panel: 05E – Row: 039 on the Memorial Wall), born June 12, 1944 was a private first class for the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He died on February 15, 1966 at the age of 22 .
After the naming in the firehouse, I can personally remember my mom telling me every time she took me to get my hair cut by my uncle, Kevin Clark at Modernistic Barbershop, or any other time we passed the firehouse, she would tell me about how the firehouse was named after these veterans who she said were among the first to die in the Vietnam War. She would tell me she went to school with at least one if not both of them. I would hear this every time we passed the firehouse, because my mom was one who always to make sure I knew the history and never forgot it.
In July 2014, sadly my mom passed, because the first thing I thought to do when I saw the mayor’s statement of the honoring of Griffith and Valentino on Memorial Day was to pick up the phone to ask her more about them so I could share it today. Unfortunately I can not.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. The real purpose of Memorial Day is often overshadowed by emphasis on barbecues and mattress sales. Even though I am too young to remember Griffith and Valentino personally (Griffith died four days before I was born and Valentino dies 10 days after I was born), as Editor-In-Chief I wanted to make sure Black Westchester saluted them publicly, along with all those who gave their life serving in the U.S. military. Let’s remember these brave men and woman always and not just on the last Monday in May.
John Howard Griffith and Anthony Robert Valentino BW salutes you. BW would like to express our thanks to all who have lost their life defending this country, especially all the Black Soldiers who died fighting for a country that never fought for them!!!