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By Gerry J. Gilmore American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2006 - Ask any member of the Young Marines and they'll tell you their organization instructs young people how be responsible, drug-free, citizens.
Established in 1958, the Young Marines is a nonprofit youth organization that teaches young people from ages 8 to 18 how to gain self-confidence and be responsible, group spokesman Roberto P. Oviedo, 20, from Alexandria, Va., said today at the Pentagon.
Oviedo and several Young Marines manned an information booth in the Pentagon's concourse as part of DoD's annual anti-drug campaign held in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week. Red Ribbon Week runs through Oct. 31.
The Young Marines' major mission "is to instill a drug-free lifestyle" among America's youth, Oviedo explained. The group teaches leadership and citizenship skills, he noted, and sponsors outdoor activities such as camping and water sports.
There are about 10,000 Young Marines with around 300 units nationwide and overseas, Oviedo said. Each unit, he said, meets once or twice a week. Young Marines wear authentic Marine-type uniforms and have similar military ranks, like 13-year-old Lance Cpl. Brianna P. Murphy, from Lapeer, Mich. Murphy said she joined the Young Marines in July 2005. Since then, she's learned outdoor survival skills, how to fly a plane and how to say "no" to drugs. "It's a great program. I love it," she said. The Young Marines is the U.S. Marine Corps' official community youth program as well as the focus of its youth drug demand reduction efforts. Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, strategic plans and policy director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped by to visit with the Young Marines today. Sattler said he was very impressed with the youth group and its "no-drugs" message. "You get that camaraderie and esprit de corps, and it gives you something to focus on," Sattler said. "Drugs don't even enter your vocabulary or your thought process." Red Ribbon Week originated as a tribute to Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" S. Carmarena of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico, killed Carmarena in 1985. Afterward, people in Carmarena's hometown of Calexico, Calif., wore red ribbons to honor his sacrifice. DoD began its participation in Red Ribbon Week in 1990. Red Ribbon week is observed Oct. 23-31.