(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — You may notice some large red ribbons on display across Fort Leonard Wood this month. These are in honor of the Red Ribbon Campaign, which the Army Substance Abuse Program promotes each year.

The last week of October is designated as Red Ribbon Week. This is an annual national drug prevention campaign that encourages Americans to wear red ribbons in memory of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was kidnapped and tortured to death by members of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985.

Camarena, who was a former Marine, firefighter and police officer, joined the DEA in the 1970s, and had become well known in both the United States and Latin America for his successes in busting up drug trafficking groups.

Shortly after Camarena's death, his high school friends and Rep. Duncan Hunter launched “Camarena Clubs” in Camarena's hometown of Calexico, California, where hundreds of members pledged to lead drug-free lives in his honor.

The pledges were delivered to then-First Lady Nancy Reagan at a national conference focusing on combating youth drug use.

In 1988, Reagan chaired the first National Red Ribbon Week, which was proclaimed by Congress as an annual campaign that would take place during the last week of October every year.

According to the National Family Partnership, which coordinates Red Ribbon activities nationwide, more than 80 million people participate in Red Ribbon anti-drug events each year. The 2021 campaign theme, “Drug Free Looks Like Me,” serves as a reminder that every day Americans across the country make valuable contributions to their communities by being the best they can be by living drug free.

I ask that the Fort Leonard Wood community join with other Americans to support the dreams and goals of our children, and to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice made by Camarena and many others on our behalf.

It is also important to remember the dangers of drugs and commemorate the many lives lost to the hazards of drug abuse. With rates of overdose deaths higher than ever in our nation’s history, it is important to stand together against this destroyer of lives, families and communities. Wearing the red ribbon symbolizes the commitment to a drug-free life and to a drug-free community.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol issues, please reach out for help. Civilians and family members may contact the Employee Assistance Program at 573.596.7199. Service members can call Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care at 573.596.0522.

The ASAP prevention office is also available for training or resources, and may be reached by calling 573.596.0938.