Born and raised in Louisiana, Dr. Rick Merritt has southern wit and charm along with a dedicated drive for excellence. He has been married to his wife Judith for over 33 years, and they have three children and nine grandchildren. Rick is the founder and president of Heart and Soul Family Counseling Services.

Rick served eight years in the military before resigning to civilian life and devoting himself to full time ministry in Yuma, AZ. It was there in Yuma that he got involved in mission work to Kenya, Africa, and has lead multiple mission teams to Kenya over the years. His pastorate experience began as the Associated Pastor in his mother’s church in 1990; which lead to his personal calling and ministry three years later and has been in the ministry ever since.

Rick is currently the lead pastor at 180 Faith Ministries in Vista, CA, reaching the Tri-City North County and San Diego area as well as having significant influence with the troops at Camp Pendleton and Miramar since 1996.

Dr. Merritt is currently partnering through his private practice Heart & Soul Family Counseling Services with the Chaplin’s Association at both Camp Pendleton and Miramar Bases to help service members, their marriages, and family heal after being ravaged by ten plus years of war. This partnership has allowed him to participate in their “Marriage Family & Parenting” Expos held at Camp Pendleton and Miramar for the last several years.

Educated with his Ph.D. in Pastoral Care and Clinical Counseling from Minnesota Graduate School of Theology; he is a certified MFT (Marriage Family Therapist), and belongs to the American Academy of Clinical Family Therapists Association, along with other certifications from Light University and the American Association of Christian Counselors; Addiction & Recovery with the 12 step program from Celebrate Recovery; Premarital & Marital Coaching, Acute Stress Grief and Trauma Care, Crisis and First Responder Training, along with PTSD & Combat Stress Coaching. He has been on the ground floor working with the U.S. Veteran’s Department as a clinical psychologist in their pilot program “The Aspire Center” located in San Diego, CA. Dr. Merritt is heavily engaged with this initiative and also leads assessments for service members with PTSD and readjustment challenges that helps them integrate back into civilian life.

“The opportunity to serve on the Samaritan Aviation advisory board is a privilege and honor that culminates all of my mission efforts thus far. I’ve been informed of the efforts and ministry involvements of Samaritan Aviation through Bryan Yeager the COO, a friend of over twenty years. I look forward to being a part of God’s plans for the future of Samaritan Aviation and the opportunity to serve with such an excellent ministry.”