Students and faculty at Fort Stewart’s Diamond Elementary School kicked off Red Ribbon Week on Monday morning with a ribbon cutting, balloon release and a visit from the Directorate of Emergency Services’ mascot, McGruff the Crime Dog.
Diamond Elementary parent-teacher organization President Wendy Spinden, PTO Vice President Julie Arnold, PTO member Aimee Phillips and David Bennett, prevention coordinator for Fort Stewart’s Army Substance Abuse Program, sponsored the event, which is held annually.
“Every year we do this,” Principal Brenda Gilchrist said as students lined up outside for the ribbon cutting. “We have nearly 1,000 students, so it will take a few minutes to get everyone together.”
Spinden described Red Ribbon Week as a drug-free awareness campaign. This year, it will be observed Oct. 23-31, she said.
“This is the 27th anniversary of Red Ribbon Week,” Bennett said. “(It’s) an opportunity to invest in our children’s futures by simply committing to a drug-free lifestyle and setting an example for our children to follow by not using illegal drugs.”
He said the history behind Red Ribbon Week goes back to 1985 when Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Enrique S. Camarena was captured, tortured and murdered by drug traffickers. To remember his sacrifice, citizens in his hometown of Calexico, Calif., began wearing red ribbons, Bennett said. In 1988, first lady Nancy Reagan asked Congress to establish National Red Ribbon Week.
Gilchrist, who has been principal of Diamond Elementary for two years, said her school has been observing the event since that time.
While the students gathered outside, many forgot about the chilly morning air when McGruff the Crime Dog joined them. Children waved and shouted to the detective mascot, one of Fort Stewart’s two furry celebrities.
Bennett said the installation’s other mascot, Rocky, had another engagement.
Spinden, Bennett and Gilchrist were joined by Vice Principal Christie Cook, military policeman and school resource officer Spc. Kirk Harris and DES school resource officer Sgt. Arthur Barron for the official ribbon cutting, followed by the release of two dozen red balloons.
Bennett said Fort Stewart’s Army Substance Abuse Program also hosted drug-prevention classes conducted by Georgia State Trooper Andy Sinquefield at Fort Stewart’s Woodruff Theater on Tuesday.