Military “Hugs” slated for Wednesday

Two of Oklahoma’s best-known military leaders will get “hugs” – both symbolic and real – at a ceremony scheduled for the state Capitol this Wednesday. 

In the governor’s large conference room on the second floor at 11 a.m., Major General Rita Aragon and Major General Myles Deering will join a tribute to the 45th Infantry Brigade Command Team, scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan next month. 

Aragon, Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affair, and Deering, the state Adjutant General, will receive the honor from The Hugs Project and executive director Karen Stark. 

More than 3,200 soldiers from the 45th and other units (Oklahoma Stablization Transition Teams, 146th Air Support Operation Squadron) will soon deploy in one of the largest Guard activations since the Korean War. In Afghanistan, they will work in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The two major generals will receive what Stark deems “the one millionth hug delivered to our troops” by her organization. Past recipients have included former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. 

Stark’s “Hugs project” organizes care packages that are sent to military personnel on active duty in the Middle East. It is based out of Crossroads Mall in south Oklahoma City. Stark says, “We’re here for them as long as they need us, they give us freedom in return.” 

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK on Monday, General Aragon said, “The Hugs Project is one very tangible way we wrap our sons and daughters with our love and affection as they defend freedom in hot and harsh environments. We ‘hug’ their neck and they feel the welcomed coolness on their skin offering comfort from home.Karen Stark’s dedication and devotion to our military allows us all to help reach out to our warriors with a gentle show of support by this gesture of kindness.”

Deering says, “The tremendous support our Soldiers and Airmen continue to receive from people all over Oklahoma is extremely meaningful.” The Adjutant General continued, “Our troops in uniform are appreciative of those that recognize the sacrifices they make on a daily basis on behalf of our nation.”