Red Ribbon Campaign begins next week

Red Ribbon Week begins Monday and ends Oct. 31. The kickoff event is today at 9:45 a.m. outside the Post Theater. (File photo)

By Samson Robinson, Prevention Coordinator, Army Substance Abuse Program

Each year our children are exposed to drugs at much younger ages.

It is estimated, according to some studies, that the average age of the first use of drugs in the United States has been decreasing over the years.

One government study reports that Americans consume approximately 70 percent of the world’s production of illegal drugs, but constitute approximately 8 percent of the world’s population.

To know the story behind the Red Ribbon Campaign, you must know the cause and memory for which it stands. Red Ribbon Week is celebrated in the month of October from the Oct. 23-31.

Drug use and abuse is a major problem in the United States. The goal is to shut this down before it destroys our youth, our future and our country.

One man saw this problem as a threat to his own society, his own world and the future of his own children. The man who stood up to destroy drug trafficking organizations was killed in his efforts to fight in the war against drugs. The man behind the struggle was Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA sent Agent Camarena to work undercover in Mexico to investigate a major drug cartel believed to include officers in the Mexican army, police and government.

One of the drug trafficking groups identified him as an undercover agent. Camarena was later kidnapped and murdered by the Mexican drug trafficking group on Feb. 7, 1985. He was found dead in a shallow grave, tortured and stabbed to death. Camarena was only 37 years old.

Within weeks of his death, in March 1985, his congressman, Rep. Duncan Hunter, and one of his high school friends, Henry Lozano, launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, Calif., near Camarena’s home. Hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans.

From these clubs emerged the Red Ribbon Campaign.

Red Ribbon Week eventually gained momentum throughout California and later throughout the United States.

In 1985, club members presented the “Camarena Club Proclamation” to then-first lady Nancy Reagan, bringing it national attention. That summer, parent groups in California, Illinois and Virginia began promoting the wearing of red ribbons nationwide in late October. The campaign was formalized in 1988, with President Ronald Reagan and the first lady serving as honorary chairpersons.

Today, the eight-day celebration is sponsored by the National Family Partnership, and has become the annual platform to show intolerance for drugs in our schools, workplaces and communities.

Each year, during the last week in October, youths and adults show their commitment to living a healthy and drug-free life by wearing or displaying the red ribbon.

We must mobilize every community, every town, every neighborhood and every family to work toward a drug-free America. Some organizations and coalitions took Camarena as their model and embraced his belief that one man can make a difference.

Stand up against drugs, and join me and others from around the nation by wearing or displaying a red ribbon each day, starting Monday and ending Oct. 31.

Since the inception of the campaign, activities have expanded beyond one week in October to year-round sponsorship of prevention efforts that advance the goal of drug-free communities and individuals.

The Fort Meade Substance Abuse Program will host a Red Ribbon Campaign kickoff to show honor and celebration to the fallen DEA agent and all others who have fallen because of the war on drugs.

A celebration will be held today from 10 a.m. to noon at the Post Theater. Come out and join all the people who are standing tall for a drug-free America and drug-free Fort Meade.

We are asking for volunteers to assist in putting out red ribbons and signs throughout the installation.

Your Fort Meade community stands for a drug-free community. Come out and support your community!

Editor’s note: For more information, call ASAP Prevention Coordinator Samson Robinson at 301-677-7983.

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