By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellOctober 29, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - They traded their combat boots, high heels and dress shoes for shorts, t-shirts and running shoes during the second annual Red Ribbon Week 5-kilometer walk held Oct. 28 here.
Dozens of Soldiers, civilians and their families walked around Semme's Lake to demonstrate their support against living a drug free lifestyle while participating in several interactive activities to learn about the effects of alcohol and drug use.
Niecole Ducksworth, the 81st Regional Support Command's alcohol drug control officer, said she was excited to see the amount of "Wildcats" who participated in the lunch-time event and hoped people realize they can make a change in someone's life.
"I hope people walk away understanding that one person can make a difference to help eliminate the illegal drugs in our schools, work places and communities," she said.
The ability to make changes starts with creating an understanding of what drugs and alcohol can do to the body.
"It's important that we raise awareness in the community by highlighting certain issues," said Ducksworth. "If we increased public awareness through prevention promotion, we can, over time, help reduce drug use."
Susan Baker, a program analyst with the Directorate of Public Works, said she spent her lunch hour participating in the Red Ribbon Week activities because she wanted to support the command's efforts in educating people about the dangers of alcohol and drug usage.
"I think that the people that have put this Red Ribbon Week together have done a great job, and I want to help them cap off the last event by participating in this walk," said Baker.
Among the engineers, financial experts and medical personnel were five-year old Jaliya Johnson and her mother Carrie Johnson.
Standing only hip high to other participants, Jaliya was just as excited to put on her miniature size Red Ribbon Week t-shirt and lace up her favorite pair of tennis shoes.
"It's important that I include my daughter in today's walk," said Johnson, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company family programs coordinator. "She needs to learn early on that drugs are a bad thing and living a drug-free life is an awesome thing."
As the pint-size walker skipped down the sidewalk unaware that her mom was attempting to hold her hand, another nearby participate had a different story to tell.
Kimberly Darby, a logistics management specialist, lost someone close to her because of illegal drugs.
"It's tough," she said. "To see someone you know lose their life to drugs is painful, and I am here to support and take a stand against drugs."
Darby said that times have changed dramatically since she was growing up as a youth and the peer pressure from friends and others can be overwhelming at times.
"There are some people that don't see the importance of standing up for something so wrong," she said. "They don't see what is happening around them in their communities, schools and in their own homes. It has to stop before someone they know dies."
More than 3,000 steps were taken by each participant in the walk against drugs, but Ducksworth hopes others will only take one step in a new direction to stop taking drugs and drinking alcohol.
"We need to make a change," she said. "If we can impact one life, we have impacted a generation."