DERRY — It was a banner day for East Derry Memorial Elementary students as they celebrated a beloved soldier father and the new flag he brought.

East Derry honored veterans and the Andrew Melton family in a Veterans Day observance Nov. 9 at the school.

Andrew Melton, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, came to the school to donate a special flag that was flown over a military base in Afghanistan.

Melton spent six months in Afghanistan, returning early in September.

Two Melton children, Jim and Lily, attend East Derry Memorial. Another son, Joe, is a student at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.

Good thoughts from his hometown made a big difference during his time overseas, he said.

“A lot of people supported me while I was away,” Melton said. “It’s a nice way of giving back.”

Through the years, the school has supported the Melton family in many ways with donations, letters, care packages sent overseas and through support of the Melton children while they attend school in East Derry.

“I”m really proud of my kids and the school,” Melton said. “They were very supportive to my wife, too, while I was gone.”

Jennifer Melton said it was hard having her husband away.

“It was tough while he was gon,e but I had a great support system,” she said. “Teachers knew what the kids were going through.”

Joe, 13, said his dad was an inspiration.

“He is always sending us in the right direction,” he said.

Gov. John Lynch told students that veterans often leave their entire lives behind to head overseas.

“We owe them a huge debt of gratitude,” he said.

For first-grader Jim Melton, having his dad come to the school in his uniform made him proud. He joined his classmates with a huge handmade welcome sign.

Teacher Kelly Cogan said she has had several of the Melton children in her classes through the years.

“We collected things to send over (to the troops),” Cogan said. “We even sent Girl Scout cookies to thank them. For Jimmy, his dad came home his first week of (first grade).”

The Melton family helped visiting Veterans of Foreign War Color Guard members hoist the new flag on the school’s outdoor pole.

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