AUSTIN, Texas -Red Ribbon Week has grown since its inception in 1988 to educate the public about the hazards of drug abuse. This year, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force stepped up its support to law enforcement agencies and community anti-drug coalitions to bring this message to communities around Texas.

Drug-free starts with me.

"Red Ribbon is about educating the community on drug awareness and the negative impact drugs have on individuals and society," said Master Sgt. Celsa Reyes, counterdrug civil operations noncommissioned officer in charge.

The counterdrug task force started with teaching Girls Scouts in Liberty Hill, Texas, with a rock wall, dunk tank and a helicopter, showcasing the various capabilities of the program.

Task force members sponsored a Red Ribbon 5k Run, stood with Drug Enforcement Administration agents for prescription drug Take Back Day, and went to 39 schools in 12 cities giving briefings and handing out red wrist bands as a reminder to stay drug-free.

Master Sgt. Almera Rose, an assistant team leader for the counterdrug program, said communicating the danger drugs pose can save many lives.

"The message must be said repetitively in different ways," Rose said. "One way of doing that is through Red Ribbon Week."

In a new initiative with the DEA, an Army National Guard LUH-72 Lakota helicopter flew to Austin-area schools and a DEA agent told students what to watch for as they grow up and are possibly subjected to illicit drugs.

"We hope our Texas communities understand the commitment and passion we, National Guard members, have towards drug prevention and education programs," said Reyes. "Through the use of our helicopter, this event becomes memorable to our children and assists them in staying drug-free."

Students at each school raised their right hands and repeated a pledge to do well in school and stay drug-free.

Red Ribbon Week is in honor of DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, who was tortured and killed by a Mexican drug cartel in 1985. Task force members were a part of an event in which Mika Camarena, Enrique's wife, spoke in Dallas, honoring her husband.

"Carrying on the legacy of 'Kiki' Camarena is a constant reminder of how lucrative and dangerous the illegal drug business can be," said Rose, "and if you get in their way, you will get hurt somehow."