By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsApril 17, 2009
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Middle school students are too young to drive, too young to vote and too young to watch "R" rated movies; yet, these adolescents are not too young to see the issue of drugs or alcohol firsthand.
"I've been offered drugs, but I choose not to use them," said eighth grade student Duncan Purnell. "We know they are out there, and our goal is to help other kids who may be tempted to use."
Purnell and more than 250 students from Wheeler Middle School participated in a walk to raise awareness and proclaim a drug-free lifestyle, here, April 8.
The students marched approximately four miles through Wheeler Army Airfield and Schofield Barracks, carrying signs, waving at passing cars and chanting words of hope.
"We are walking to raise awareness," said eighth grade student Kayla Zittle.
"Drugs are here, and they always will be," explained Purnell. "Our main goal is to connect drug-free kids with those who do drugs in hopes of helping them stop."
For eighth grader Sammie Wilcox, the story of drugs hits home.
"I live with my aunt and uncle because my parents do drugs," said Wilcox. "I see what it has done to them and how it affected their life and mine.
"I want a better life for myself," added Wilcox.
Members of the Wheeler Middle School Peer Awareness Club spend numerous hours a week conducting activities to promote healthy alternative activities to drug and alcohol use, most recently organizing the 2nd Annual Drug and Alcohol Free Walk in support of Alcohol Awareness Month and Month of the Military Child.
"The goal of the group is to create strong leaders to help reduce the use of substances," said counselor Ed Millet, Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Service. "And with strong leaders comes the ability for them to help guide their peers on the right path."
Military police and many volunteer Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 25th Aviation Brigade escorted students on the walk.
"This is a great way to boost morale and give (students) ideas on how to handle situations where drugs may be presented to them," said Pfc. Amanda Wong, 13th Military Police Detachment. "It's good for the Soldiers and students to work together on this issue."
The students stopped briefly at Sills Field, placing lei on the memorial statues to recognize the sacrifices Soldiers and family members have made, and then began the trek back to school.
"We are all part of the military, and some of us may continue that path," said Purnell. "Being drug-free now is important for our future."