PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Picatinny Arsenal officials kicked off on Oct. 2 the installation's recognition of the annual and national anti-drug awareness operation known as the Red Ribbon Campaign.

In 1990, the Department of Defense officially began observing Red Ribbon Week to raise public awareness and mobilize communities to combat tobacco, alcohol and drug use among military personnel, civilians and their families.

The Red Ribbon Campaign originated in 1985, when Marine Corps Veteran and police officer turned Drug Enforcement Administration Agent, Enrique (Kiki)Camarena, was murdered by drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Since then, the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth and the DEA have spread the word of the red ribbon campaign across the globe.

Christopher Moore, the installation's Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program Manager, as well as Employee Assistance Program Coordinator, facilitates Picatinny's campaign annually.

Moore began the presentation at the Lindner Conference Center by saying that this year's focus is on opioid addiction. In a somber tone, he shared a personal story that happened close to home, just last week.

"My fiancée's daughter's friend overdosed on Route 206, on Thursday," he said. "It was Fentanyl. They (police) found out that three other people in Sussex County also overdosed on Fentanyl.

"This is very important information to me, to get out to you, and the community," Moore said. "I wanted to use to the old John F. Kennedy saying, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for you country,' to ask yourself after hearing the presentation, 'What can you do to help?' This entire campaign revolved around one person, Kiki Camarena. One person. Each one of us needs to make a difference, now, for our kids, for our families, for our communities, everyone. This is killing us. We can't be losing our young like this," Moore added.

Andrea Pastuck, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center, told the audience that this year's campaign theme was "Send a message. Stay drug free." The theme was inspired by Izabella Ware, a student from Griswold Middle School in Griswold, Connecticut. It was selected from thousands of Red Ribbon theme ideas submitted by students, parents, educators, and members of communities across America.

The theme is a call to action to speak out in support of healthy choices. The theme is also a reminder that by staying drug free, you are sending a message to yourself and others about how much you value yourself, your overall health, your community and your future.

"Why do we celebrate Red Ribbon Week?" Pastuck asked before answering her question. "It's an ideal way for communities to unite and take a visible stand against drugs. Show your personal commitment to a drug-free lifecycle by participating in a Red Ribbon Week celebration."

Pastuck then turned the floor over to the guest speaker, Brad Seabury, Chief Assistant Prosecutor with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office.

"Cheap, plentiful, pure, addicting, and deadly. What I am talking about of course is Heroin, prescription opioids, and Fentanyl," Seabury said. "Because of these substances, people are dying in your country, right here in the state of New Jersey, Morris County, and Rockaway Township. Nationally, 23 and a half million people are in need of addiction treatment. We're losing up to 175 people each day to drug overdose. 130 to opioids alone, which means as we sit here this morning, 14 people will die. 14 people will be extinguished by this epidemic, by this plague.

"It is the equivalent of having a 9/11 type event every two to three weeks," Seabury added. "Every two to three weeks we are experiencing a tragedy across this country from drug overdose at the level of 9/11. That is what we are here to talk about this morning."

Seabury then brought the issue closer to home.

"Addiction is in this room. I say that with confidence. Addiction is right here," he said.

Seabury explained that he was not attacking a group of federal employees, or accusing them of drug use, but that someone in the room has felt the impact of illegal drug use.

His statement was verified when Moore opened up earlier with his story of the loss of someone he knew.

Seabury discussed the dangers associated with certain prescribed and unprescribed medications. With the aid of a map, Seabury pinpointed the areas in New Jersey that experienced both arrests or deaths from the use or sale of illegal drugs. Morris County was at the epicenter of the state's most troubled areas.

The map showed that many of the arrests were situated along the Routes 80 and 287 corridors, two of the most heavily trafficked roadways en route to Picatinny Arsenal. Law enforcement officials warn that the threat and dangers of these substances impacting you, or somebody you know, are very real.

A statistic on the Red Ribbon Campaign Awareness website states that, "Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42% less likely to use drugs than those who don't, yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations."

Thus, education plays a vital role in preventing drug use or addiction.

Employees who believe they may have an addiction problem should contact Moore at 973-724-4357 for a referral. All screenings remain confidential.