CARIBOU – The Maine Elks Association, in conjunction with the City of Caribou, is pleased to announce that Chief Michael W. Gahagan has been selected as the Maine Elks Association’s nominee for the prestigious, Elks national Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Award. This award has been established by the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks to recognize and honor law enforcement officers who have made a significant contribution in the field of drug abuse prevention and who personify Agent Camarena’s belief that, “one person can make a difference.”
Enrique Camarena grew up in a dirt-floor house with the hopes and dreams of making a difference. As a young man he worked his way through college, served in the Marine Corps and became a police officer. When he decided to join the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, he told his mother, “I’m only one person, but I want to make a difference.” On February 7, 1985, he gave his life trying to make a difference.
While investigating drug trafficking, the smuggling of drugs into the United States he was murdered by a Mexican drug cartel. He was kidnapped, brutally tortured and killed. His death precipitated the start of the Red Ribbon Campaign that Elks celebrate in his honor each October. The Red Ribbon Campaign was started by the Camarena family and friends as a tribute to Agent Camarena. It also serves, however, as a reminder to all of us about the dangers of substance abuse.
Special Agent Camarena’s death inspired millions of people around the world to lead drug-free lives. Each October, thousands of schools, communities and state and local drug abuse prevention organizations distribute red ribbons to honor Special Agent Camarena’s memory. The millions of Americans who wear these ribbons demonstrate visibly their commitment to this cause.
The first Red Ribbon Week celebrations were held in La Mirada and Norwalk, California in 1988; the National Family Partnership (NFP) coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons. The following year, the Elks, who began their Drug Awareness Program (DAP) in 1982, made the Red Ribbon Celebration part of their DAP and have continued to encourage its support to this day.
Chief Gahagan was nominated for this award by Austin Bleess, City Manager of Caribou and on behalf of the officers and members of Presque Isle Lodge of Elks # 1954 by Michael Lafrance, the Elks drug awareness chairman.
To be considered for this most prestigious award one must:
Be an individual, not a corporation or organization
Be a law enforcement professional
Be a positive role model committed to a healthy life style
Have made an outstanding contribution in the field of drug awareness/prevention
Have gone beyond the normal responsibilities of their position.
Chief Gahagan began his law enforcement career with the Caribou Police Department in August of 1973. He worked his way up through the ranks from patrolman, becoming chief in 2005. He is also Past President of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. Chief Gahagan’s dedication to his community and its children is impressive. This is well summed up in part of the nomination of the Chief by Chairman Lafrance when he says, “…Chief Gahagan has been the personification of drug awareness education and drug abuse prevention in his community of Caribou, Maine, and the surrounding area. Throughout the period of his employment as a Caribou police officer, Chief Gahagan has utilized both working hours as well as countless hours of volunteer time to touch the lives of well over 20,000 young people in a positive way in order to steer them away from the horrors of drug abuse.”
J. Andrew Bolz, Chairman of the Maine Elks Association’s Drug Awareness Program was extremely impressed when he reviewed the submission regarding Chief Gahagan. “We had outstanding candidates for the nomination this past year; however Chief Gahagan’s remarkable dedication to his community and his exceptional work in the field of drug awareness/prevention were the deciding factors in proudly forwarding his name as the Maine Elks Association’s nominee for national recognition.”
Alan F. Harding, President of the Presque Isle Lodge of Elks said, “To have been able to identify and present to the Maine Elks Association the nomination of a law enforcement officer having the remarkable qualifications of Chief Michael Gahagan is a source of great pride to the Presque Isle Elks, Lodge #1954. Although Presque Isle and Caribou have been rivals for many decades, certain matters unite these two cities. The recognition of Caribou Police Chief Gahagan for his extraordinary efforts in drug abuse education and prevention is such a matter in which the citizens of both cities happily join together, because Chief Gahagan’s efforts have not only benefitted the population of Caribou but all of Aroostook County. The Presque Isle Elks and all people of Presque Isle stand together with the citizens of Caribou to applaud the accomplishments of Chief Gahagan and the appropriate recognition of him for that good work by the nomination of him for this prestigious Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Award.”
Chief Gahagan will be formally recognized for his nomination for this award by members of the Maine Elks Association and the Presque Isle Elks Lodge at a ceremony to be held at the Caribou City Hall at the City Council meeting scheduled for April 13, 2015, 6:00 p.m. .