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Veterans Day ceremony, Oklahoma History Center
November 9, 11:00 am–1:00 pm
The Oklahoma History Center is proud to announce that it will host a 2018 Veterans Day ceremony on Friday, November 9, from 11 am to 1 pm. The event is open to the public. Presentations at the ceremony will be made by retired Major General Rita Aragon and Lieutenant Colonel Bill Schwertfeger, who was a prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War.
Aragon is a retired US Air National Guard two-star general who became the first woman to hold the rank of brigadier general in the Oklahoma National Guard and the first woman commander of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. She retired in 2006, and her awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
On February 18, 1972, Schwertfeger and his weapons systems officer were circling a potential enemy site when their F-4 aircraft was struck by a Russian SA2 missile, crippling the F-4. Schwertfeger landed his plane in what he believed to be a fairly safe area; however, he landed in the middle of a group of North Vietnamese soldiers moving forward for the launch of the 1972 Easter Offensive in South Vietnam. He and his weapons system officer surrendered and began their 407 days as a POWs in the “Hanoi Hilton.”
The color guard for this event will be provided by Honoring America’s Warriors, an organization formed to assist the families of those lost in the service of their country as well as retired or disabled veterans from all branches of service. This is achieved through hunting, fishing, shooting sports, family and couples gatherings, faith-based programs, service/companion dog placement, employment, and adaptive sports for veterans who are paralyzed or amputees.
Music for this ceremony will be furnished by the 145th Army Band, “The Governor’s Own,” which is comprised of musicians enlisted in the US Army National Guard. They have traveled across the nation for various events and, in 1988, were deployed to Torino, Italy, for the 45th celebration of the Alpini-45th Alliance. The band has performed for Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore, and the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson. They are currently celebrating 100 years of service.
The Oklahoma History Center is located at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive in Oklahoma City. The History Center is a designated Blue Star Museum, offering free admission to all veterans, active duty military and their dependents. Attendees will be free to tour the museum before or after the ceremony, including the special exhibit Welcome Home: Oklahomans and the War in Vietnam. That exhibit opened in November 2017 and will remain open until November 2019.