By Guy Caley
Special to GUIDON
During the month of October, you may notice some large red ribbons on display across Fort Leonard Wood. These are in honor of the Red Ribbon Campaign, which the Army Substance Abuse Program will promote throughout the month.
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 bands.
Shortly after Camarena’s death, his high school friends and Congressman 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 the 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.
It is very appropriate that people of 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. Now with rates of overdose death 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.
Normally, the ASAP office sends speakers to area schools to mark Red Ribbon Week, but this year in light of social distancing measures, it will instead be sharing campaign materials for the schools to use.
Red ribbons are available from the ASAP office for anyone who wants to wear one to show support for a drug-free community. For more information, contact the ASAP at 573.596.0938.
(Editor’s note: Caley is the Fort Leonard Wood Employee Assistance Program coordinator.)