By Spc. Jesus J. Aranda, 25th Infantry Division Public AffairsMay 13, 2010
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - More than one hundred students from Wheeler Middle School here took part in the annual Wheeler Middle School Drug Free Walk beginning at the school and ending at the 25th Infantry Division headquarters building on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, May 12.
Students from grades six, seven and eight took part in the walk alongside school faculty and Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Inf. Div. in recognition of the importance of living a drug-free life.
"It sounds like a simple thing-to walk, but the message it sends is very much larger," said Command Sgt. Maj. Darryl M. Jennone, command sergeant major, U.S. Army Garrision - Oahu. "The message it sends is drugs have absolutely no place in our community."
The walk was casual, allowing students to mingle and chat with their peers, guests, school faculty and Soldiers, including the military police Soldiers who escorted the students during the walk.
"Our role is to help out and assist the teachers," said Spc. Ruth Kail, a military policeman with the 13th Military Police Detachment and a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officer for the schools on Wheeler AAF and Schofield Barracks. "We have traffic police and officers on bikes to help out."
The annual drug free walk, according to Kail, is only part of a continuous anti-drug education plan for students of all on-post schools in the area.
"We teach the students about the negative effects of drugs on the brain and body, and also good decision-making skills," said Kail. "We teach students how to make the right decisions, make the right friends, how to stand up to peer pressure and take charge of their lives."
For Kail and the students of Wheeler Middle, taking charge of one's life is as simple as being his or herself.
"Basically standing up for yourself, and being confident," Kail said. "If someone offers you a cigarette just be prepared and know that this is something you don't want and make a pledge to say no."
Upon arrival to the headquarters building at Schofield Barracks, the students gathered around the "Tropic Lightning Memorial" to pay their respects to the many Soldiers who have sacrificed their lives as part of the division.
Jennone reminded students of the damage drug abuse can have on a person's future.
"I've been an MP for over 25 years," said Jennone. "I can assure you the impact of drugs is devastating- emotionally, physically, financially devastating."
Jennone assured the students that saying no to drugs is much cooler than drug users and peer pressure may try to make students believe.
"Popularity is actually found in positive behavior. A lot of kids may say 'That's not cool.' I'm here to tell you that is cool," said Jennone. "Victory at home, success at school and the community, in my eyes, is very cool."
The students were thanked for their determination and tribute to the Soldiers on behalf of Jennone and Command Sgt. Maj. Frank M. Leota, command sergeant major, 25th Inf. Div.
"I want to thank each and every one of you for being out here today," said Leota. "As a military child, it is important that you understand the value that you have in our community. Thank you for representing your class, your school and your community."
At the close of the event, several students were then chosen to honor the fallen heroes by placing leis onto the monument, with one student's few words speaking volumes for what the event was all about.
"I think drugs are really bad and I am going to stay away from drugs," said Emily Bean, a Wheeler Middle School sixth-grader.