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ADA – Major General Rita Aragon will be the keynote speaker as the East Central University Veterans Upward Bound Program staff hosts a Veterans and Military Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 15, in the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center on the ECU campus.

The event is free and open to the public.

Aragon, secretary for veterans and military affairs for the State of Oklahoma, will deliver her message shortly after 11 a.m.

Aragon, a previous speaker in past Veterans and Military Appreciation Days at ECU, retired from the Air Force in 2007 as the Air National Guard assistant to the deputy chief of state of Staff Manpower and Personnel at the Pentagon. She was the senior Air National Guard office responsible for military and civilian personnel management, education, training and resource allocation.

She joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard out of desperation in 1979 in order to support her two children. She 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.

Aragon enlisted as an airman basic in the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron in Oklahoma City. Twenty-eight years later, she retired as a record-setting major general.

In 1989 she became the first female commander in the Oklahoma Air National Guard when she assumed command of the 137th Services Flight at the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base.

She was the first female commander of the Oklahoma Air National Guard in March 2003. She was the first female to command a state’s Air National Guard.

Aragon was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge Award in 2010. She is a senior military adviser for the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism and serves on the boards of the Oklahoma

Women’s Foundation, Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women and the PGA Folds of Honor Foundation.

Programs, organizations, schools and employers, who provide services to veterans, military service members and their families, will have tables of information beginning at 8:30 a.m. and wrapping up about 2:30 p.m.

In coordination with the Oklahoma City VETS Center and the VA’s national initiative, VA to VETS, the Department of Veterans Affairs will have representatives available to enroll veterans in the VA Healthcare System and answer questions. In addition, veterans can meet with service officers who can assist with benefit claims.

Vendors will each make a short presentation via “speed sharing” between 8:45 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. There will be representatives from the Muskogee Regional Office, Oklahoma City VA Hospital, Oklahoma City VETS Center, Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs, Disabled American Veterans and Oklahoma Army National Guard. More than 50 vendors, including organizations, schools and employers – who provide goods and services to and for veterans, military service members and their families – will be part of the event.

A special program will begin at 11 a.m. as Bart Culver, Oklahoma Education Liaison Representative from the Muskogee Regional Office, will provide a brief update and overview on the status of VA Education benefits, followed by Aragon’s speech.

Lunch will be provided, immediately following the program and will be served on a first-come, first-serve basis. Drawings for door prizes will also occur during the lunchtime.

For more information contact Mary Meeks, director of ECU’s Veterans Upward Bound Program at 580-559-5541 or via email at


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