Red Ribbon Week Activities Highlight Anti-Drug Efforts
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2003 The Defense Department is mobilizing once again, but this time the battlefield is not in a faraway land against a foreign enemy. Instead, the battlefield is here on our nation's soil - and the enemy is drugs.
Red Ribbon Week is an annual anti-drug event to educate individuals, families and communities on the destructive effects of drugs, while highlighting the positive alternatives that are available.
Miss USA Susie Castillo signs autographs for members of the Young Marines during Red Ribbon Week activities at the Pentagon Oct. 27. Castillo told the audience that children can stop drug abuse by just saying "No!" Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The observance at the Pentagon's main concourse began today and will continue through Oct. 29.
A large crowd of DoD personnel attended the event and toured exhibits that offered literature on the harmful effects of drugs, while offering helpful programs to teach way to combat drug use. Pens, ribbons and key chains that carried anti-drug messages were given away to people attending.
On hand to offer word of encouragement were celebrity guests Susie Castillo, Miss USA; former Washington Redskins football great Darrell Green; and actress Lynda Carter.
Castillo, who was raised by a single parent, said she has seen "both sides of life," when it comes to drug use. "I have watched my peers make bad decisions about drug use and find themselves in trouble, but I've also seen how good schools and great teachers give kids the confidence and skills they need to become architects of their own destiny," she said.
She said that although she never used drugs, she has seen what they can do and urges parents to advise and influence their children. She called for expanded funding for drug education programs that will "save lives and give our young Americans back their future."
She said that children can stop the cycle of drug use by simply saying 'No!" During the opening ceremony, Thomas W. O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low- intensity conflict, presented the 13th Annual Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness awards to five DoD agencies and installations for their anti-drug programs and campaigns:
- The Army Substance Abuse Program, Fort Stewart, Ga.
- Camp Pendleton Drug Demand Reduction Campaign, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
- Drug Education for Youth, Washington Navy Yard.
- Drug Demand Reduction Program, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
- "Knight Vision," a Florida National Guard drug demand reduction program.
- Defense Logistic Agency Supply Center Employee Assistance Program, Columbus Ohio.
The Young Marines of Bakersfield, Calif, received the 3rd Annual Fulcrum Shield Award for Excellence in Youth Anti-Drug Programs. The award recognizes the efforts of independent military-affiliated youth organizations that help spread anti-drug messages throughout their communities.
Other scheduled events for Red Ribbon Week include autograph sessions and displays of racing vehicles in the Pentagon Courtyard.
Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 after Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique Camarena was kidnapped and killed in Guadalajara, Mexico. Citizens from the slain officer's hometown of Calexico, Calif., began wearing red ribbons to remember his death and to commemorate his sacrifice. The anti-drug message spread, and in 1988 the National Family Partnership made the Red Ribbon Celebration a nationwide event.
Since the 1990s, the secretary of defense has recognized Red Ribbon Week as a time to showcase DoD's community drug awareness efforts and recognize its anti- drug programs.
Sgt. 1st Class David Cleveland, a Pentagon liaison for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, who was among many military personnel in the audience, said he understands the message the Pentagon is trying to convey.
"The message that the Pentagon is trying to send to our youth, and Defense Department personnel as well, is very important -- and that message is to avoid drugs at all means possible," he said. "What I get from this program is that our youth must have positive role models in their lives to help keep them away for the temptations of drugs -- role models (who) will help our youth seek the best opportunities in life."