Rita A. Aragon, Major General (retired)
Secretary Military and Veterans Affairs
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd Room 212
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
Major General Rita Aragon is the first female Oklahoma Secretary of Military and Veterans’ Affairs. She is the liaison to the Governor for all Oklahoma military and veterans’ issues. She participates and facilitates the Oklahoma Military Strategic Planning Group that helps insure the stability and growth of the communities and facilities of the five military installations in the state. She is tasked to develop programs that support current military and veterans individually and in total.
General Aragon, served as the first female commander of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, the first female to command a state’s Air National Guard and the first female of Native American Ancestry to become a general officer.
She serves on the Boards of Integris Health Edmond, Pros for Vets, Folds of Honor Foundation, Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma, Women and Genders Studies for University of Oklahoma, and Star Base. She is the Senior Military Advisory for the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, and has served on the American Red Cross and Girl Scouts, Juliette Lowe Leadership Society. Her community involvement spans participation in YWCA Purple Sash, Edmond Fine Arts, Go Red for Women for American Heart Association, and the White House Commission on Military Leadership Diversity and the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Military Task Force.
The General’s Awards include Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with 2 devices, Air Force Commendation, Army Commendation, Global War on Terrorism, Humanitarian Service Medal and others. Aragon has been recognized as Oklahoma’s Woman of the Year by Journal Record, Oklahoma Woman Veteran of the Year, Leadership Fellow Oklahoma Christian University, Leadership Resident University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond Hall of Fame, Valley Forge Freedom Award, Diversity Journal’s 100 Women in America to Watch.
MOST SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT
As a teacher, single mother of two daughters; ages 1 and 2 and a half, I had to make a decision on how I would be able to financially support my family. I struggled with the decision, but joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard to be able to sustain us. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I gained strength from professional, physical, and personal development and education that the United States Air Force offered. I found support in the men and women who serve our nation and in turn grew in ability and independence. The opportunities I was given were invaluable. I have been blessed to engage in the lives of so many Americans and to touch the face of humanity around the world. I have been given so much through this journey that began with a desperate step to save my children.
PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY, GOALS AND INFLUENCES
I was born and raised in rural Oklahoma to parents of great integrity, work ethic, and self reliance. We had no indoor plumbing until I was twelve years old, and no telephone at home until I left for college. My parents did not believe in “credit” purchases, and believed that everyone should “earn” their own way in life. The first major purchase I remember my dad making was a set of Encyclopedia Britannica that a door to door salesman sold him. He read every book, cover to cover. He didn’t get to go to college because he got married at 17 to his high school sweetheart. But, he drilled into my sister and I that learning was an individual responsibility and a great adventure. My mother went to work outside the home when I was a sophomore in high school to save for my college education. I started working after my junior year with high hopes to escape my tiny town and see the world through higher education.
I worked through college and became an elementary teacher. I loved seeing the light in the eyes of my low socioeconomic students as they saw the potential that learning brought to them. Many went on to enjoy higher education and many didn’t have the fortitude to reach their dreams. I know that being confident, believing in a power higher than ourselves, and believing in the people we live with and love is a powerful force for success. I have tried to share that in every venue I have had in my life. I do not think I have special powers, knowledge, abilities, or strengths. I do think I was taught to make learning a lifelong process, believe in yourself and others, and for the most part work like there will be no tomorrow if you don’t.