A teacher and single mother who joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard out of desperation in order to support her two children -- before retiring 28 years later as a record-setting major general -- will be the speaker during a Veterans Appreciation Day ceremony June 12 [FRIDAY] at East Central University.
Maj. Gen. Rita A. Aragon retired in 2007 as the Air National Guard assistant to the deputy chief of staff of Staff Manpower and Personnel at the Pentagon. Since 2008 she has been director of advanced programs at the University of Oklahoma.
Aragon will participate in the main ceremony at 11 a.m. in the Estep Multimedia Center in the University Center.
Veterans Appreciation Day is an ECU Centennial event hosted by ECU's Veterans Upward Bound Program. Veterans and the public can attend any of several programs scheduled in the University Center throughout the day to honor veterans. Hamburgers will be provided following Aragon's presentation.
Other speakers will be John Schupp of Cleveland State University who will discuss SERV (Supportive Education for Returning Veterans) at 9 a.m. and Jeremy Williams, south central regional director for Student Veterans of America, at 10:15 a.m.
Sherry Scott of the Muskogee Regional Office of the Veterans Administration will give an update on VA educational benefits at 1:30 p.m. At 2:30 p.m. Maj. Ed Pulido will tell about the Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that offers scholarships to the spouses or dependents of soldiers who either lost their lives or became disabled in the line of duty.
Aragon combined a career as a teacher, counselor and principal in the Oklahoma City public schools with a career in the military for nearly 20 years. She enlisted in the Oklahoma Air National Guard in 1979 as an airman basic in the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron in Oklahoma City.
In 1989 she became the first female commander in the OANG when she assumed command of the 137th Services Flight at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base. She became the first female to hold the rank of brigadier general in the Oklahoma National Guard and the first female commander of the Oklahoma Air National Guard in March 2003.
Aragon also is the first female of Native American ancestry to attain the rank of general officer as attested by the Women In Military Service Memorial in Washington, D.C.
For more information about Veterans Appreciation Day, call the Veterans Upward Bound Office at 580-559-5459 or 580-559-5384.
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