A group of Valley youths is waging war against all things detrimental to young people, especially drugs.
Wearing combat-style boots and camouflage clothing, the Clovis Young Marines model themselves after the U.S. Marine Corps. The organization started in December 2005 and is for boys and girls ages 8 to completion of high school. It has 48 youths. Eighteen adult volunteers, many former Marines, train the kids in character and leadership skills that promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
Members seek to serve as role models to their peers by making presentations on what they've learned and doing community work. In the past several months, they marched in the Clovis Big Hat parade, operated a booth at the Clovis Rodeo and placed flags on veterans' headstones at Fresno Memorial Gardens on Memorial Day.
Young Marines was founded in 1959 by the Brass City Detachment of the Marine Corps League, located in Waterbury, Conn. The official charter was issued Oct. 17, 1965. Membership was extended to females in 1975.
The Marine Corps has supported Young Marines since July 1993. Every U.S. Marine vows to uphold the core values of honor, courage and commitment. The Young Marines' core values are discipline, leadership and teamwork.
Young Marines is the focal point for the Marine Corps' drug demand reduction efforts.
The corps works with the Drug Enforcement Administration to present annual Enrique "Kiki" Camarena national awards to six units across the United States. The award is named in memory of Camarena, a former Marine who was abducted and murdered in Mexico in 1985 as he worked as a DEA special agent.
For its anti-drug efforts, Clovis Young Marines was recently named the recipient in Division 6, which covers eight western states.
Lt. Anthony Martinez of the Fresno Police Department, a former Marine who serves as the Clovis Young Marines' drug demand reduction officer, says it is important that youths are educated about the dangers of drugs — and effectively communicate it to peers and others.
"I think people do not realize how much drug exposure that kids are getting in school," say. "For the people who don't discuss it and don't think it's around them, that's a big mistake."
The Clovis Young Marines unit gets busy during National Red Ribbon Week, which in October annually raises drug and violence awareness. Members give presentations in classrooms or assemblies at schools.
Martinez works with his wife, Sandy, the Clovis unit's commanding officer for the past three years. She became involved when the couple's daughter, Tressa, became a member.
"A lot of people can do Red Ribbon Week for one week in October," she says, "but we focus on drug demand reduction all year long."
Youths say they feel personal growth with their involvement in Clovis Young Marines.
Bethenie Ruiz-Cisneros, 14, a student at Valley Prep Charter Academy in Fresno, has been a member for two years. She carries the rank of Young Marines-Cpl.
She recently gave an anti-drug presentation and the Camarena Award at her school. Word traveled fast that she did such a good job, Martinez says, that other teachers asked, "When are you available for my class?"
She gave the same presentation to four other classes.
"I went in my uniform — and everybody started seeing me," she says. "They started getting very interested."
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