“ I Love Guthrie. I love the people of Guthrie. And I would absolutely love to be the Parade Marshal for the 89ers!” Thus began the recent conversation between Major General LaRita (Rita) Aragon (retired) and 89er Committee Chairman Steve Gentling. Major General Aragon was responding to a short notice inquiry asking whether she would consider being parade marshal since the original parade marshal, Brigadier General Kevin McNeely had just received orders that would place him out of the county for the next two months. Gentling said “Given that our theme this year is “Heroes of Service” it was our desire to have a general officer preside over the parade. When General McNeely told us about his orders, we were crushed but then someone mentioned General Aragon and we are so fortunate she was willing to clear her schedule and lead our parade.”
Presently serving as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for the Great State of Oklahoma, General Aragon has a rich and storied background and a magnificent military career that began as an enlisted Airman and 1979 and concluded with the rank of Major General, retiring in 2006. General Aragon has achieved a number of “firsts” during her military career. She was the first female commander in the Oklahoma Air National Guard 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 when she was appointed to that position in 2003. She has spent time in the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. as the National Guard Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and later as the National Guard Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel. General Aragon is presently serving as the first female Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Oklahoma.
In addition to her stellar military career, General Aragon has served as an elementary school teacher and elementary school principal.
Other distinctions that have been achieved by General Aragon include: OKC Chamber of Commerce Excellent Educator of the Year; Oklahoma City Principal of the Year; Woman of the Year in Government, and Oklahoma Woman Veteran of the Year. In 2009 she was inducted in the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame.
“I have been honored to serve this United States of America in uniform. It has been my privilege and my passion to serve this county and its citizens. And it is with great enthusiasm, energy and delight that I will serve as the ‘89er Parade Grand Marshal” said General Aragon to conclude her conversation with the 89er Committee Chairman. All Gentling could say was “Amen”. The 89er Parade begins at noon on Saturday, April 21st. Information on all the ‘89er Activities may be found the web site www.89erdays.com.