ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Depot Commander Col. Timothy Sullivan was named the honorary chairperson of Red Ribbon Month for Calhoun County at an event aimed to prevent substance abuse.

The Agency for Substance Abuse and Prevention hosted community leaders and area students at Anniston\'s Zinn Park on Oct. 5 for a Red Ribbon Month kickoff ceremony. Sullivan was the keynote speaker.

Sullivan asked the community to join him in recognizing Oct. 23-31 as Red Ribbon Week, the nation's oldest and largest drug prevention campaign. "I'm asking for your courage, the courage it takes to make the right decision."

"The purpose of this event is to inspire us to do greater things as it relates to drug prevention in our community," said ASAP executive director Kelly Price. ASAP is a nonprofit agency offering services to educate children, parents and communities about the dangers of substance abuse.

After the opening prayer by ASAP's Deric Minnefield and the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by members of Oxford High School's choral group, Jeff Baker, ASAP's North Region Information Clearinghouse manager, recounted the story behind the red ribbon.

Baker told the story of Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, the Drug Enforcement Agency special agent killed in 1985 by Mexican drug traffickers. Camarena's tragic death and his work bringing criminals to justice led people in his home state of California to wear red ribbons symbolizing his memory. California's efforts in promoting drug-free living spread throughout the nation, and in 1988 the National Family Partnership coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons.

Jacksonville State University President Dr. William Meehan, in introducing Sullivan as the guest speaker, said substance abuse can be prevented by taking action. "Leading an institution like the depot, the largest employer in our region, Sullivan can see how easy it is for many people to be deeply affected by one person's substance abuse."

Sullivan, who commands an installation of nearly 5,000 federal workers and 2,000 contractors, said the depot has counselors and other professionals ready to help employees take the necessary steps to recovery. "At the depot, we do our best to recognize the warning signs of abuse. We need to take this fight to the community."

Sullivan said that while thousands die each year in alcohol- and drug-related situations, the statistics don't have to grow. "Drug abuse is not a bad subject to talk about at the dinner table," said Sullivan.

After a candlelight ceremony honoring local people who have died due to their own or someone else's substance abuse, school-age children pinned long, red ribbons on the trees at Zinn Park.