Red Ribbon Run reinforces messages of healthy choices

Story and photo by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

Hundreds of service members, government civilians and family members came out for U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s 2012 Red Ribbon Run, held Oct. 13 on Rhine Ordnance Barracks.

The annual run, the largest one of its kind in the KMC and one of the largest Army wide, recently received Defense Department recognition for raising awareness on maintaining a drug-free lifestyle.

“Soldiers came out in massive numbers in support of this message,” said Sarah McInerney, commander of the 5th Quartermaster Detachment, a ROB-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command unit that rigs parachutes. “They came out on a volunteer basis on Saturday. It really speaks volumes about how they feel.”

Red Ribbon Week, which starts Monday, honors the memory of Enrique Camarena, an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent and former Marine who was tortured and killed in Mexico in 1985.

People, sick of the destruction caused by alcohol and drugs, began wearing red satin badges and forming coalitions to spread the word.

Now, events are designed for people to take a stand against substance abuse. Here in the KMC, the family-geared run and walk has become tradition.

Hosted by Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Lars Zetterstrom, the event’s guest speakers were Maj. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the 21st TSC commander, and Air Force Col. Christine Taylor, the 86th Medical Group commander. 

In all, 145 volunteers and 80 troops from Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers supported the event. Roughly 1,800 people took part, including 459 runners, 415 walkers and 76 pets. Hundreds more were cheering at the red balloon-laden finish line. The 5th Quartermaster Detachment earned the trophy for greatest unit participation.

Tearing through a wide stretch of red paper, Sgt. Joseph Campbell checked the time on his watch. Campbell, a flight medic with the Landstuhl-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, often leads the pack at KMC runs. This year was no different, as Campbell crossed the finish line minutes ahead of others.
While running, Campbell reflected on a recently read scripture that spoke of avoiding harmful substances — a message that mirrors the goal of Red Ribbon Week, he said.

“Listen kids, listen people. If you don’t do drugs, you can run and not be weary. You can walk and not faint. You’ll have energy and great treasures of knowledge. You’ll tap into energy you didn’t even know you had,” Campbell said. “That’s what people should take away from this.” 

Many people brought their dogs. “Star Wars” characters roamed through crowds, stopping for snapshots with participants. Inside ROB’s special events center, family readiness groups offered food and drinks. Children snacked from a huge American flag made from fruit and played in a bouncy castle.

On Sept. 11, Piggee recognized the garrison’s Army Substance Abuse Program employees for their efforts. This year, the ASAP employees earned the 22nd annual Department of Defense Community Awareness Award based on the strength of previous Red Ribbon Run events and the program’s pro-health focus.

Months of planning paid off, said Sandi Magill, the run’s lead organizer. She said she was glad to see families enjoying themselves while taking home an important message — saying no to drugs and alcohol.

“It was a good community event,” Magill said. “When you see smiling faces of the littlest kids, they were just happy to have been there. To me, that really makes it.”

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