IWAKUNI, Japan - Marine Corps Community Service Iwakuni put on numerous events to recognize and draw awareness for Red Ribbon Week here from Oct. 22-26, 2012.
Red Ribbon Week began in 1985, after the killing of Enrique Camarena a Drug Enforcement Agency officer who was once an enlisted Marine. Camarena was responsible for destroying an estimated $8 billion marijuana field, enraging drug lord Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, who ordered Camarena's kidnapping.
Kidnappers then tortured and eventually killed the former Marine.
Citizens in Camarena's home town of Calexico, Calif., donated red ribbons in honor of the slain officer. The ribbon then became what it is today, a symbol to prevent the use of illegal drugs.
“For me personally, I know people who have lost their entire lives because of drugs, so it is important for me to get this promotion out,” said Heather Payne, Marine Corps Community Service substance abuse prevention specialist.
Team members started the week by passing out red ribbons at the Main Monzen Gates.
Students at Matthew C. Perry elementary and high school also took a pledge to be drug free by signing a banner.
Station residents also had the opportunity to sign the banner at Crossroads Mall and station Commissary. The banner accumulated hundreds of signatures by the end of the week.
Red Ribbon Week ended with a 5 km race starting at the parade deck.
“The banner is for the start of the race,” said Payne. “We are going to have the participants run through it at the start.”
While Red Ribbon Week originated in the United States, it is still relevant overseas.
“It is important because drugs, as well as people abusing them, are everywhere,” said Kristen Diller, Marine Corps Community Service substance abuse prevention specialist.
“I think it brings attention to a growing problem and this is an important pledge to take,” said Diller.
With more than 700 signatures strong, many Iwakuni residents took the pledge to be drug free, promising to live up to the saying is “The best me is drug free.”