PST Staff Writer
“Lord, listen to your children praying, Lord, send your Spirit in this place; Lord, listen to your children praying. Send us love, send us pow’r, send us grace.” To the strains of that song written by Ken Medema, and sung by the Portsmouth High School Choir under the direction of Sally Gower, the 2012 Veterans Day Program, was underway Friday morning at Portsmouth High School
Again, as in many years past, Sandy Merritt put together a program dedicated to veterans, featuring music, and a talk given by Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Poston.
“We have a great speaker, and great music, I’ll call it a family get-together with the staff and the students,” Merritt said.
Merritt has a reason to honor veterans. Her entire life is surrounded by them.
“My Son, Rick Merritt, is a (U.S. Army) Command Sergeant Major over Fort Drum (New York),” Merritt said. “My late son J.D. was a Lieutenant in the Army National Guard. My son Ralph was in the Guard, and my husband (Ralph, Sr.) was a paratrooper in the Army, both of my brothers-in-law, my father was in World War I. My brother was in World War II. So we are a military family, and we love our country.”
Portsmouth High School Principal Doug Poage saluted all of the PCSD employees who are veterans, and talked about how America has its freedoms because of those who have served and are serving in the U.S. military.
Polston, who is on leave from the Portsmouth City School District, was hired in 1998, and worked at PHS until September of 2006, when he was ordered to active duty.
“I spent my next 18 months at Camp Atterbury, Iraq. I came back in March of 2008, and spent the remainder of that year at the (Portsmouth) Elementary School. Then, in August of 2008, I was activated again, and spent time in Hampton, Virginia at Langley Air Force Base, working for a Joint Organization called Air, Land and Sea Application Center,” Polston said. “After that I went to Afghanistan on a very unique mission with an agriculture development team with the Kentucky National Guard. I came back in May of 2011, and the last year I have, due to medical reasons, been in the Warrior Transition Unit.”
Polston said when he retires, probably next year, he will return to teach in the Portsmouth City School District.
The Portsmouth High School Band, under the direction of Matt Swintek, performed. Portsmouth Mayor David Malone spoke to the students about Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and Tim Lavender provided special music. A moment of silence was observed and Taps was performed by Swintek, Sarah Potts and Mark Jackson.
The posting and retirement of the colors was done by the Portsmouth Fire Department.
Polston made a surprise presentation of flowers to Merritt, presented by his longtime friend John Little, and used that opportunity to announce this is most likely the last year for Merritt to direct the program. She is expected to be succeeded by her son Rick.
“He (Rick) asked me to keep doing it until he could take over,” Merritt said.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.