Today is July 2nd and I am shocked to learn my old friend and chess warrior, First Sergeant (U.S. Army retired) Rolando A. Aragon, has left us. We played a lot of chess in the good old days when I was a young Soldier at Fort Sill. Over the years we stayed in touch. After he retired he settled down in nearby Watauga. His love for chess never waned. And he was a true warrior; serving our Nation’s Armed Forces to keep us all safe.

I called him and invited him to play in the 2019 Fort Worth Veterans Open Chess Championship. I was quite pleased when he showed up. His competitive spirit was still the same. He was a formidable opponent for all. That was the last time I saw him.

I grew concerned a few months ago when dialing his phone number resulted in “The telephone number you have dialed is temporarily not in service.” How long is “temporary” I thought? So I called back every week and got the same answer. The pandemic crossed my mind. I hoped for the best and dreaded the day I might learn the truth. Today is that day and I am sad.

At the 2019 Fort Worth Veterans Open Chess Championship he let me take his photo and interview him. I posted the article in several places. It was well received. Below I post that article again, to honor my friend and comfort his family. Godspeed Rolando. I hope you found chess boards in Heaven long before the Devil knew you arrived.

Published on the FWOPC Facebook page (and many other places) on April 4, 2019.

The Ultimate Chess Warrior.

Army retired First Sergeant Rolando Aragon served our Nation with exemplary distinction during his 25 years of active duty. He accomplished many important jobs including Infantryman, Paratrooper, Supply Sergeant, Red-leg Artilleryman, Personnel Non Commissioned Officer in Charge, and First Sergeant. He served in Belgium, Central America, Germany, Italy, Korea, Mogadishu, Vietnam, Fort Hood, Fort Ord, Fort Polk, Fort Sill and many other places.

He calls those who served in the 1st Cavalry Division, 10th Mountain and 82d Airborne Divisions brothers. At Fort Sill’s Reception Station, he was often the first real Soldier many new recruits encountered. He ensured they swapped their civilian clothes for new uniforms and learned to march before transferring them to Drill Sergeants and Basic Training. He was also the guy who ensured all received their first immaculate Army haircut (high and tight – the higher the better).

First Sergeant Aragon received the Meritorious Service Medal twice along with many other awards and decorations. After retiring he continued his valuable service for another ten years by working in FEMA.

In the “good old days” before US Chess kept computerized records, First Sergeant Aragon was one of the most feared chess players at Fort Sill. There were many demands on his time and few opportunities to play in rated tournaments. He surely would have made Expert if given the chance.

In this photo, taken by Jim Hollingsworth at the 2019 Fort Worth Veterans Chess Championship, a lot may have changed since First Sergeant Aragon was the “Barracks King.” But his eyes remain as sharp and focused as when he inspected his Soldiers. He soaks in every detail of the board.

His last rated tournament was sometime in the late 1980’s. When told the cover of Chess Life recently had a photo of a Grand Master playing chess while skydiving, he said, “I would have absolutely loved to have done that, but I was too busy making sure everyone else jumped out of the airplane!”

The Fort Worth Veterans Chess Club salutes First Sergeant Rolando Aragon. — at Fort Worth Veterans Affairs Clinic.

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