Red Ribbon Week

March to the beat of a different drum, that's what students are being advised to do when it comes to peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol.

In honor of national Red Ribbon Week, students from more than a dozen local schools packed the streets of downtown Meridian for a special march and rally.

Each year, Red Ribbon Week calls attention to the dangers of drug and alcohol use, especially among youth.

The week was established 14 years ago in honor of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique Camarena. In 1985 he was tortured and brutally murdered while working a drug investigation in Mexico.

When it comes to drugs and alcohol, law enforcement officials say young people are often the target.

"If you start young, quite often you stay addicted be it cigarettes, hard drugs, and alcohol," said Sheriff Billy Sollie, Lauderdale County.

However, here's some good news. According the Partnership for a Healthy Lauderdale County's most recent survey the number of reported incidences involving drugs and alcohol on school campus's in the county has dropped almost 36 percent. Meanwhile, even with this, officials say more awareness is still needed.

"This year alone we've had seven fatalities on Lauderdale County Roads. The majority of those have been impaired," said Sheriff Sollie.

Meanwhile, organizers of the event say if nothing else, they hope students took away at least one thing from the event and that is the theme of the day that true "Freedom," really is being "Drug Free!" Extended Web Coverage

What is Red Ribbon Week

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration states the Red Ribbon Week is:

  • A time for gratitude for all the lives that remain drug free
  • A time to pledge to live a safe and drug-free life
  • A time to remember those we have lost in the fight against drugs

Red Ribbon Week is an important tradition for the drug prevention community. The event that has become a national symbol of drug prevention began as a grassroots tribute to fallen DEA hero Special Agent Enrique Camarena.

By wearing a red ribbon during the last week in October, Americans demonstrate their ardent opposition to drugs. They pay homage not only to Special Agent Camarena, but to all men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation’s struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.

The Story Behind the Symbol

Enrique "Kiki" Camarena grew up in a dirt-floored house with hopes and dreams of making a difference.

Camarena worked his way through college, served in the Marines and became a police officer. When he decided to join the U.S. Drug Enforcement

Administration, his mother tried to talk him out it. "I can't not do this," he told her. "I'm only one person, but I want to make a difference."

The DEA sent Camarena to work undercover in Mexico investigating a major drug cartel believed to include officers in the Mexican army, police and government. On Feb. 7, 1985, the 37-year-old Camarena left his office to meet his wife for lunch. Five men appeared at the agent's side and shoved him in a car. One month later, Camarena's body was found in a shallow grave. He had been tortured to death.

In honor of Camarena's memory and his battle against illegal drugs, friends and neighbors began to wear red badges of satin. Parents, sick of the destruction of alcohol and other drugs, had begun forming coalitions. Some of these new coalitions took Camarena as their model and embraced his belief that one person can make a difference. These coalitions also adopted the symbol of Camarena's memory, the red ribbon.

The National Family Partnership organized the first Nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign in 1988. Since that time, the campaign has reached millions of U.S. children.