A World War II veteran and former teacher from Rockland was invited to lead the people in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag Thursday afternoon, April 1 during President Barack Obama’s visit to Portland.

“It’s a great honor,” said Leroy Peasley March 31 at his home on Barter Road.

The Rockland resident, who is going on 87, said he has never received such an honor. When asked what his reaction was to the invitation to meet the president at the Portland Expo, he said, “Here I come good Lord!”

Peasley was born in Rockland. He said he never knew his father and when his grandfather fell and injured himself, he could no longer work to support the family. As a result, Peasley learned at a young age what it was to go without food. When he was about 8 years old, he moved to the Children’s Home in Bath, where he was happy to receive three meals a day.

He joined the U.S. Marine Corps. and was selected to be a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Marine Guard at Camp David in 1943, which was known at the time as Shangri-La. He said he was very proud of the assignment and hopes to see Camp David again before he dies.

Peasley later served in the Pacific Theater in World War II. He said his Third Marine Division was “shot up pretty good” in Guam, and was on reserve at Iwo Jima.

“He served aboard the Callaway burying the dead at sea,” a letter from Knox County Democratic Committee Chairman Hugh Magbie said of Peasley. Magbie said the committee helped organize the invitation for Peasley to meet the president.

After the war, Peasley worked as a teacher, helping special education students.

He said Obama is a hero of his, and he wanted to thank the president for what he’s done for the veterans. Peasley said that in recent years, when the gas prices skyrocketed, he had to collect bottles to pay for his trip to the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta. He said Obama has increased benefits for veterans and taken better care of them.

Peasley said all he had to get by on was Social Security.

He brought with him a picture of the president and his family.

“I’d follow him to hell and back as a Marine,” Peasley said of Obama.

Peasley is an active member of the Knox County Democrats. Recently he has struggled with his health.

He said he had to give up playing basketball when he was 75 because of his knees.

On March 31, he was prepared for his trip to meet the president, with his best uniform hanging up close at hand and ready to go.

At the event on April 1 he received a warm reception and thunderous applause as he told everyone in attendance, “This is the best day of my life!”