Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Schriever Sentinel

National Red Ribbon Week: The story behind the symbol

Commentary by Edward Roski

50th Space Wing Drug Demand Reduction Program Manager

Red Ribbon Week is observed annually the last week in October to honor Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. This is the 29th anniversary of Red Ribbon. This year’s theme is “Love Yourself, Be Drug-Free.”

Camarena grew up in a dirt-floored house in Mexicali in Baja California. When he turned 9 years old his family moved to the United States to look for a better future.

He completed high school successfully, but faced a critical turning point. Some of his friends were headed for trouble and he had to make a choice whether he wanted to follow them into a life of crime and drugs. He then joined the Marine Corps instead. Camarena decided to stay straight, working his way through college and completed a degree in criminal justice. He then joined the police force and worked as a narcotics investigator, and finally, became a special agent with the DEA.

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. Camerana was kidnapped by five men, shoved into a van and taken to a remote area in Mexico. One month later, Camarena’s body was found in a shallow grave; he had been tortured, beaten and brutally murdered. He fought and gave his life against the proliferation of drugs.

In an effort to remember the ultimate sacrifice he paid, 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.”

Sponsored by the National Family Partnership, the eight-day observance aims to raise awareness of the destruction caused by drug use in the school, work places and communities.

It is a travesty the negative impact illegal drugs have on our society; from the individuals to the families and communities. 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 continue supporting a drug-free lifestyle.

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