LaRita A. “Rita” Aragon
Rita Aragon earned her Bachelor of Science in Education from Central State College in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1970. She would also receive a Masters Degree in Guidance and Counseling from that same institution in 1979.
Aragon enlisted in the Oklahoma Air National Guard on September 9, 1979 as an Airman Basic in the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron stationed out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She received her commission through the Academy of Military Science at Knoxville, Tennessee, in October 1981. She returned to the 219th EIS as an administrative officer. In February 1989, then Captain Aragon became the first female commander in the history of the Oklahoma Air National Guard when she assumed command of the 137th Services Squadron at Will Rogers World Airport Air National Guard Base. She became the first female to hold the rank of Brigadier General in the history of the United States Air National Guard as the commander and Assistant Adjutant General for the Oklahoma Air National Guard in March 2003. As Assistant Adjutant General for Air, General Aragon reported directed to the Adjutant General of Oklahoma.
While serving as Assistant Adjutant General, General Aragon was appointed to serves as the Air National Guard assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. She served in that position from 2003 to 2005. In 2006, General Aragon was appointed Air National Guard assistant to the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Manpower and Personnel. In that position, General Aragon oversaw policies and plans covering all part of the Air Force’s military and civilian personnel management.
On November 18, 2010, Governor-elect of Oklahoma Mary Fallin announced that she would nominate General Aragon to serve as her Secretary of Veterans Affairs in her Cabinet. If confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate, Aragon will become the first woman to hold that position. As Secretary, Aragon will be Fallin’s chief adviser on matters related to the policies and operations of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.
Aragon was sworn in as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on January 10, 2011.
In addition to her military career, Aragon has served as an elementary school teacher and an elementary school principal. She was named an OKC Chamber of Commerce Excellent Educator of the Year in 1990 and an Oklahoma City Principal of the Year in 1992. Aragon also serves on the boards of the Red Cross Chapter of Central Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women and the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma. She was named by The Journal Record as 2008 Woman of the Year and in 2009, she was inducted in the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame.
Debby Hampton is President and CEO of the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
Debby started her nonprofit career at the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Red Cross after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. She rose through the ranks, becoming chief executive officer in 2002. For several years, she directed the Oklahoma Center For Nonprofits before moving over to run the United Way. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and has served in numerous leadership roles with Leadership OKC, the Youth Leadership Exchange, and Leadership Oklahoma. She is married to Dr. Michael Hampton and they have two grown sons, Chris and Jono.