Retired Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon will be parade marshal for the annual '89er Day parade April 21 in Guthrie.
'89er Day is a celebration of the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run, much of which centered around Guthrie, Oklahoma's first state capital. Events that day in Guthrie include the parade, carnival, chuck wagon feed, rodeo, old-timer baseball game, and queen coronation.
With a theme of “Heroes of Service,” the parade has named a marshal whose career fits that description, organizers said in a news release. They noted that they are happy she stepped in for another hero, Oklahoma National Guard Brig. Gen. Kevin McNeely, whose recent assignment out of the country prevented him from leading the parade.
“When Gen. McNeely told us about his orders, we were crushed, but then someone mentioned Gen. Aragon, and we are so fortunate she was willing to clear her schedule and lead our parade,” said '89er Committee Chairman Steve Gentling in a news release.
In accepting the request, Aragon told Gent
“I love Guthrie. I love the people of Guthrie. And I would absolutely love to be the parade marshal for the “89ers!” she said, according to the release. “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.”
Presently serving as the secretary of Veterans Affairs for Oklahoma, Aragon has a rich, active military career that began as an enlisted airman in 1979 and concluded when she retired as a major general in 2006.
Aragon 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 in 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.
She also has been an elementary schoolteacher and elementary school principal, and among other awards, in 2009 she was inducted in the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame.
The '89er Day parade begins at noon Saturday, April 21. Information on all the '89er Day activities may be found on the website www.89erdays.com.