Although Presha Merritt first got involved with the Society more than four decades ago, she didn’t come on board as an employee until 1995 when she was hired as director at Quantico, where she’s been ever since.
Merritt first took a volunteer orientation course with the Society in 1973, but she didn’t have the chance to volunteer until 20 years later. “I was a young wife and mother,” she explained. “My husband was in flight training. We moved around a lot and I got involved in other things.” Merritt earned her degree in archeology and raised her children. While her family was stationed in Okinawa, Merritt worked as a volunteer coordinator, first aid/CPR instructor, and HIV/AIDS education instructor and trainer for the American Red Cross.
Then, in 1993, Merritt’s family returned to the U.S. and she finally started volunteering for the Society. When the director position at NMCRS Quantico opened up in 1995, she jumped at the chance. “I like helping people and I like working on a Marine Corps base,” she said. “My husband was a Marine. My son was a Marine and served in Desert Storm. My granddaughter is a soldier (but that’s ok).”
During her years at Quantico, Merritt has seen dramatic changes in the clients that come to her office for help and the nature of their problems. “When I first started, we saw a lot of car repairs, overextended credit, and our clients needed a little help,” she explained. “Then, when 9/11 happened and we started sending people overseas, we started seeing a very different clientele. Now, we see a lot of Marines and others with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which seriously impact their finances. The cases are no longer simple. Sometimes they use excess spending as a way to cope with PTSD.”
Another way NMCRS Quantico supports combat-served clients is through its combat casualty assistance visiting nurse CCA VN program, which started at NMCRS Quantico in 2006. “Today, I have four nurses who travel to Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland, down to Richmond, Virginia and up to Fort Belvoir. All four DDA VNS also have other states they travel to visit clients. Hearing their clients’ stories is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Sometime our VNs come in and chat with me to get some things off their minds. They are dealing with some really traumatic experiences. All I can do is listen, but I’m there for them.”
“I’m approaching retirement age, but it’s a tough decision because I really enjoy what I’m doing,” Merritt said. “I feel like I’m part of the healing process with our clients and the people who work with them. It’s more than a job. Its more like a vocation. I didn’t expect that.” When Merritt does retire, her passion for genealogy, beekeeping, and history will keep her engaged. In the meantime, she loves her colleagues and volunteers. “They keep me young and they keep me sane.”
Presha celebrated 20 years of service to the Society in February this year. Congratulations, Presha and thank you!