Chaplain Col. Ronald “Russ” Ragon, 58, went home to his Savior on April 8, 2023. He served 21 years in the United States Air Force and was the former pastor of Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. A Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West, he was a current member of the EPC Chaplains Work and Care Committee.
Chaplain Ragon was sworn into the United States Air Force as Chaplain in July 2001. Assignments included Chaplain, Beale Air Force Base, Calif.; Staff Chaplain, United States Air Force Academy, Colo.; Senior Protestant Chaplain and Branch Chief, Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Deputy Wing Chaplain, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas; AFIT Student, Army Family Life Chaplain Training Center, Fort Hood, Texas; Deputy Wing Chaplain, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Wing Chaplain, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; Wing Chaplain, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England; Deputy Division Chief, Chaplain Career Management, Air Force Personnel Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas; and Deputy Command Chaplain, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
Over the course of his 21-year career, Ragon deployed to multiple locations in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve, Freedom’s Sentinel, and Spartan Shield. While deployed to Sather Air Base, Iraq, he made a direct and lasting impact on thousands of coalition personnel by forging spiritual resiliency and reintegration for military families and honoring the lives of 34 fatally wounded warriors. During his most recent deployment to Qatar, Ragon led a 23-member team in the execution of more than 250 faith group services and 900 individual counseling sessions. In addition, his team delivered critical spiritual support to 9,000 personnel during the Operation Allies Refuge evacuation of 57,000 United States and Afghan citizens over a three-week period.
Ragon earned the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters; Air Force Meritorious Unit Award; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with one oak leaf cluster; Iraq Campaign Medal with bronze star; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals; Armed Forces Service Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Air and Space Campaign Medal; Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster; Air Force Overseas Service Short and Long Tour Ribbons; Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border; Air Force Longevity Service Award with four oak leaf clusters; and Air Force Training Ribbon.
He is survived by his mother Judy Ragon; sister and brother-in-law Regina and Gustavo Varela; wife Margaret Fletcher Ragon; daughter Samantha Ragon; daughter and son-in-law Madeline and Brandon Atha; son and daughter-in-law Timmy and Morgan Ragon; and four grandchildren.
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I am deeply saddened and devastated over the sudden and completely unexpected passing of Russ Ragon. Russ was truly one in a million. He was not only one of my most beloved chaplains, but he was also a very dear and longtime friend. His kindness, gentleness, good humor and support was beyond compare. His approach to people was both beautifully simple and sincere. Sometimes people in ministry over-complicate our faith and ministry; Russ never did that, and it was so refreshing.
I can say without question that Airmen across the Air Force, to families worldwide, and so many of us who had the privilege to know Russ and be touched by him, were the better for it. He brought heartfelt joy to all who knew him. In fact, as some would say including me, Russ made having a bad day difficult to have honestly. The smallest bit of good news would prompt his world famous, “Woo hoo!” accompanied by his wonderful Russ Ragon grin. He defined all that is good not only as an EPC Teaching Elder, but as a beloved Chaplain in the Air Force Chaplain Corps. He exemplified pastoral care and selfless service. He will be dearly missed, and there will be a sad-filled gap in my life that will remain!