By Edward Roski
50th Space Wing Drug Demand Reduction Program Manager
Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. This campaign generally takes place the last full week in October. This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated October 23-31 and honors the Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.
This is the 24th Anniversary of Red Ribbon with this year’s theme “I’m Drug free.”
This is his story. Enrique Camarena was born July 26, 1947 in Mexicali, Mexico. His family and friends called him Kiki. He grew up in a dirt-floored house. As a little boy, he begged his mother for a toy gun. “I need a gun,” he said, “because I’m going to be a policeman when I grow up.” When he turned nine his family moved to Calexico, Calif. to pick fruit and to look for a better future.
Mr. Camerana worked his way through college and after serving in the Marine Corps for two years he joined the Calexico Police Department. He eventually became a narcotics investigator with the police agency and finally became a special agent with the DEA.
He was extremely concerned about the drug problem in this country, and he wanted to make a difference by getting involved. His family knew that being a special agent could be dangerous and his mother tried to talk him out of it, but Kiki told her no, he replied, “Even if I’m only one person, I can make a difference.” He received an assignment from the DEA to work undercover in Mexico investigating a major drug cartel believed to include officers in the Mexican Army, police and government.
He infiltrated drug trafficking bands and successfully helped break up many of them, confiscating thousands of pounds of cocaine and marijuana. He lived among the drug cartel for weeks gathering information and evidence. He was ready to accomplish his assignment when suddenly his identity was discovered. Kiki was kidnapped by five men and shoved into a van, was taken to a remote area in Mexico. One month later Enrique “Kiki” Camarena’s body was found in a shallow grave; he had been tortured, beaten and brutally murdered. Kiki fought and gave his life against the proliferation of drugs and the nation mourned the loss of a hero.
The public wanted to do something to remember the ultimate sacrifice he paid, so people everywhere started wearing red ribbons to symbolize their commitment to help reduce the demand of drugs in their communities. The act of wearing red ribbons took on national significance and grew into what is now known as the Red Ribbon Campaign.
It is a travesty the negative impact illegal drugs are having in our society. It destroys families, neighborhoods, and the mind. During Red Ribbon Week, we can make a difference just like Enrique “Kiki” Camarena by getting involved in your community, participating in activities at your local school districts, by educating your children at an early age of the dangers of illegal drugs and to continuing to support a drug-free lifestyle.