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Red Ribbon Week honors those who risk all for us

 

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Enrique "Kiki" Camarena grew up in a poor barrio in Mexico. When he was 9 years old, his family moved to the United States. Kiki worked in the fields with his family until he finally got the chance to go to school, something he had dreamed of throughout his young life.

Kiki was a good student who played sports, worked on the yearbook and was even voted "best all-around senior." After graduation from high school, Kiki worked his way through college, earning a degree in criminal justice.

After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, Kiki served his country as a Marine (1968 to 1970), then as a police officer for the Calexico Police Department (1970 to 1973) and the El Centro Police Department (1973 to 1974).

In 1974, he joined the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a branch of government that works to prevent the flow of drugs into the United States.

As a DEA agent, Kiki was stationed in Calexico, Calif., Fresno, Calif., and then Guadalajara, Mexico.

On Feb. 7, 1985, just three weeks before he was to be reassigned, Kiki was kidnapped by five men, who shoved him into a beige Volkswagen Atlantic and sped away.

Nearly one month later, on March 6, his body, and the body of his pilot, Alfredo Zavala-Alvera, who had been kidnapped separately on the same day as Kiki, were found in a shallow grave.

Nearly 11 years after he joined the DEA, Kiki's life came to a tragic end. He had been in Mexico for 4 years and was working to uncover Mexico's marijuana and cocaine barons. His work brought him close to unlocking a multibillion-dollar drug pipeline that he suspected extended into the highest reaches of the Mexican army, police and government.

The tragic end to Kiki's life made national news here at home. His death ignited a community response that led to the development of many community grass-roots prevention campaigns. The first national Red Ribbon Week was proclaimed by Congress in 1988. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan served as the first honorary chairs.

Today, the Red Ribbon Celebration, observed annually in October and aimed at increasing citizen participation in, and awareness of, community and school-based prevention programs, honors those who risk their lives in order to prevent substance abuse and violence in America.

In this, the 17th year of Red Ribbon Week, we reignite our passionate, grass-roots expression of concern. It is our opportunity to collectively take a stand and say that Kiki's life, and all lives lost or devastated by the abuse of alcohol and other drugs, are a price too high to pay. We as a community will not stand idly by as these silent and deadly killers steal futures.

The Red Ribbon Campaign is our voice. It is our way of saying we will continue the fight until we are victorious. Come join us.

This year, Havre's Red Ribbon Week schedule of events will begin Saturday on Make a Difference Day with members from the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line decorating tables at the Northern Montana Care Center. There will also be a kick-off walk/run on Sunday. Highlights for the week include radio and grocery bag contests, free swimming at the city pool, an educational haunted house, McGruff appearances, school activities, and activities at the Montana State University-Northern Lights basketball game on Nov. 1. A complete schedule of activities for Red Ribbon Week will be published in the Havre Daily News on Thursday.

Besides the events that will be taking place, there are many things that we can do to make a difference. We can invite family and friends over for a drug-free get-together; talk with your children about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs; display a red ribbon, banner, or poster in your window; write a letter to the editor about the benefits of living drug- free; wear a red ribbon to demonstrate your support for a healthy drug-free lifestyle; and the simplest activity of all share a smile and a word of praise to someone you know who is living a healthy drug-free life.

Remember, it all starts with one one person and then two, and then three and four, until we come together as a community to encourage a change. A change that we, Kiki, and those who have lost friends and loved ones to illegal drugs, would be proud of.

For questions about Red Ribbon Week, or to get involved, contact HELP and the Boys and Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.

 

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