McPherson, Gillem join nation in recognizing Red Ribbon Week
Col. Deborah B. Grays (seated), commander, U.S. Army Garrison takes a moment to sign a proclamation declaring Thursday through Oct. 31 as Red Ribbon Week as, from left, Command Sgt. Maj. Kenny S. LeonGuerrero, garrison command sergeant major, Alcana Morris, Installation Biochemical Testing coordinator, and Moses Simmons Jr., director, Alcohol and Drug Control Office, serve as witnesses.

A proclamation declaring Thursday through Oct. 31 as Red Ribbon Week was signed by Col. Deborah B. Grays, commander, U.S. Army Garrison, Oct. 17.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country, according to Moses Simmons, the director of the Community Wellness Center and the Alcohol and Drug Office at Fort McPherson. Although the start and end dates can vary slightly depending on the organization and source, Red Ribbon Week generally takes place the last full week in October.

"Red Ribbon Week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for a drug-free America," Simmons said. "The hopes and dreams of our children, through a commitment to drug prevention and education and a personal commitment to live drug-free lives, is important.

Our ultimate goal is to bring millions of people together to raise awareness regarding the need for alcohol, tobacco and other drug and violence prevention, early intervention and treatment services."

The week also commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs to keep the country and its children safe.

Camarena grew up in a dirt-floored house with hopes and dreams of making a difference, history lessons indicate.

Camarena worked his way through college, served in the U.S. Marines and became a police officer. When he decided to join the DEA, his mother tried to talk him out of it. "I cannot not do this," he told her. "I'm only one person, but I want to make a difference."

The DEA sent Camarena to work undercover in Mexico investigating a major drug cartel believed to include officers in the Mexican army, police and government. Feb. 7, 1985, the 37-year-old Camarena left his office to meet his wife for lunch. Five men appeared at the agent's side and shoved him in a car. One month later, Camarena's body was found in a shallow grave. He had been tortured to death.

Within weeks of his death in March of 1985, Camarena's congressman, Duncan Hunter, and high school friend, Henry Lozano, launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, Calif., 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.

These coalitions began to wear red badges of satin, red ribbons, as a symbol of Camarena's memory. The Red Ribbon Week campaign emerged from the efforts of these clubs and coalitions.

Today, Red Ribbon Week is nationally recognized and celebrated, helping to preserve Camarena's memory and further the cause for which he gave his life. The Red Ribbon Campaign also became a symbol of support for the DEA's efforts to reduce the demand for drugs through prevention and education programs.

As the fight continues, volunteers will wear their red ribbons to pay homage not only to Camarena, but in "support of the cutting down on abuse and the challenge to keep alcohol, drugs and illegal substances off the streets and out of the hands of our most precious resources: the children," Simmons vowed.

Page last updated Thu October 23rd, 2008 at 15:32