National Red Ribbon Week officially started Monday and ends eight days later.
However, the Fort Meade observance kicked off a few days early with a Red Ribbon Campaign designed to bring awareness to drug abuse.
The program was led by Samson Robinson, prevention coordinator of the Army Substance Abuse Program at Fort Meade, on Oct. 19 at the Post Theater.
Before the program, Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard tied a red ribbon around the tree in front of the Post Theater to promote Fort Meade’s drug-free awareness commitment.
During the 90-minute program, Rickard spoke briefly about the campaign, then signed a proclamation signifying Red Ribbon Week.
“We have a crisis in our country,” Rickard said. “As we speak, we have almost 24 million Americans ages 12 and older who are being treated for drug abuse. What we don’t know is who needs the treatment.
“I ask everyone to please do your part to try to stop drug [abuse] before it starts.”
The campaign’s mission, said Robinson, is to present a unified and visible commitment toward the creation of a drug-free America.
By wearing or displaying the red ribbon, Robinson said youths and adults show their commitment to living a healthy and drug-free life.
The program also featured guest speakers from Fort Meade’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program; an Equal Employment Opportunity specialist; and a domestic violence victim advocate.
In his remarks, Richard Ponder, a member of the SHARP team, spoke about date rape and sexual assault.
“Sexual assault isn’t an alcohol-related crime; it’s a crime of trust,” he said. “In a majority of sexual assaults, the victim knows their offender.”
Katherine Lamourt, Fort Meade’s domestic violence victim advocate, spoke about domestic violence and offered tips on how to recognize it.
“Domestic violence is something that continues to occur not only on this installation, but across the globe,” Lamourt said.
“Domestic violence is about power and control. In most cases, the offender is applying harm, pointing or addressing the other person’s self-esteem.”
Lamourt listed several resources offered on post. They include Couples Communication, which helps couples develop tools to enhance their relationship, gain problem-solving strategies, and create a long-lasting relationship. The group meets every Monday from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the Family Advocacy Program Center, 2462 85th Medical Battalion Ave.
Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center also offers ongoing and individual classes.
Sgt. 1st Class Nakisha Matthews, the Equal Employment Opportunity advisor for the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade, spoke briefly about EEO and what the community can do to protect and respect each other.
“EEO means everyone should treat their surroundings with dignity and respect,” Matthews said. “A lot of times people resort to alcohol or drugs to mask whatever pain they’re going through and that triggers behavior or action. That alone will allow you to say something you wouldn’t normally say out of character.
“If you protect yourself, you’ll respect everyone else,” she said.
Red Ribbon Week is observed in honor of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration who worked undercover in Mexico to investigate a major drug cartel.
The 37-year-old was kidnapped and murdered by a Mexican drug trafficking group on Feb. 7, 1985.
“I would take a drug-free world over a million dollars,” Robinson said. “A million dollars can never replace a life.”
Editor’s note: For more information on Red Ribbon Week, call the Fort Meade Army Substance Abuse Program at 301-677-7983.