November 10, 2012

First female Native general

General Excellence: First Female Native American General Officer Honored in Her Home State

By Wilhelm MurgRetired Major General Rita Aragon did not plan to join the United States military, but with her back against the wall it began a career that achieved multiple firsts and adds an induction into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on November 9.

In 1979 she was the mother of two young girls, a schoolteacher who had just received her master’s, and her husband was killed in a motorcycle accident.

“I had no child support and no health insurance,” Aragon, Cherokee/Choctaw, said. “I was working three jobs: I was working at McDonald’s, I was working as a church secretary, and I was working at the school—and I still couldn’t make ends meet.” A friend recommended that she look into the National Guard. “I went in with a master’s degree as an airman basic; I had no rank, nothing, but it was the greatest thing that ever happened to my life.”

She went on to become the first woman to hold her current position, Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs for the state of Oklahoma; the first female commander in the Oklahoma Air National Guard; and the first woman of Native American ancestry to become a general officer in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Comment:  For more on Indians in the military, see Menominee Solider in VP Debate and Penobscot Pilot Flies Obama's Helicopter.

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