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Military schools kids on drugs

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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CARBONDALE – It wasn’t quite shock and awe, but when a U.S. Army OH-58 Jet Ranger helicopter circled overhead and set down on the Roaring Fork High School football field Thursday morning, it got students’ attention. The message of the day wasn’t exactly one of war and peace, but an admonition to students heard often before: “Just say no to drugs.” The fly-in was the culmination of Red Ribbon Week, a campaign to curb student drug use and a tribute to Enrique Camarena, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was tortured to death in 1985 by drug traffickers in Mexico City. Camarena’s family began wearing red ribbons after his death to celebrate his fight to squelch drug trafficking from Mexico. The movement caught on, and this year marks Red Ribbon Week’s 20th anniversary and its first celebration in the Roaring Fork Valley. “We thought (Red Ribbon Week) would be an opportunity to focus on drug awareness,” said Roaring Fork High School Principal Dale Parker. Earlier in the week, the school handed out red ribbon bracelets, held discussions about drugs and hosted a movie night Wednesday featuring the 1990 film “Drug Wars: The Camarena Story.” More than 100 students attended.Drug use among Carbondale students has been down in recent years, Parker said. Five years ago, Roaring Fork High School had a significant drug problem, but recently it hasn’t been a significant issue, he said. Nonetheless, students heard pleas to stay away from drugs from Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael Martich, helicopter pilot Chief Ron Trani and DEA agent Todd Wheeler. Wheeler told Camarena’s story of torture, calling it “hard to tell.” He urged students to stay away from drugs because younger kids look up to high school students. Martich said that though most students don’t use drugs, “you know the stuff’s out there and it’s tough to stay away from it.”Before making some kids do push-ups, Trani stood in front of the students and pointed to the “fun meter” on the back of his pilot’s helmet. He said his choice to keep off drugs “allows my fun meter to be maxed out.”Martich, Trani and the helicopter are based at Buckley Air Force Base in Denver. The fly-in was one of three stops at Roaring Fork Valley schools Thursday, including Carbondale and Basalt Middle schools, part of a whirlwind anti-drug tour of 60-70 Colorado schools over two weeks, Martich said. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520bmagill@postindependent.com


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