MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Gory images flashed across the screen. Bodies cut in half, vital organs exposed, lifeless bodies of children shoved into garbage bags. The scenes depicted were enough to make even a seasoned combat veteran cringe – and that was the goal.
The Combat Center hosted the National Save A Life Tour for Marines and sailors at the Sunset Cinema May 6 - 8 to help educate them on the effects and repercussions of drinking and driving.
According to their Web site, the tour is the nation’s most advanced high-impact alcohol awareness program that uses multi-million dollar drinking-and-driving simulators that provide participants a realistic, but sober perspective on the effects of driving while intoxicated.
Each of the six sessions over the course of the three-day event starts off with charismatic speaker Brian Beldyga, the senior manager for the tour, talking to the audience about his personal experiences with driving while intoxicated and his horrific accident years ago.
Beldyga set the tone for the event before playing two videos on alcohol related motor vehicle accidents. The videos provide a graphic message of what can happen when someone is in an accident under the influence.
“Over two million people have died in the past 39 years due to drunk driving,” Beldyga said. “It’s hard to rewrite the mind. We want to educate smart people so they can stand up to the ignorant ones and take their keys.”
After a recap of the impact from the videos, Beldyga presents and explains the vehicle simulator to the audience and pulls a demonstrator to the hot seat while the simulator is displayed on a big screen.
Once the first Marine underwent the simulator, the remaining Marines and sailors had an opportunity to turn the key and test their driving skills while “under the influence.”
“It was a lot harder than I though it would be, especially the stopping and turning,” said Cpl. Kyle Parker, an ammo technician with the Central Magazine Area, after ending his simulator experience with a mock driving under the influence ticket.
As the line for the simulator dwindled, it became apparent that it was not an easy task to drive under the influence while sober. The message got across.
“Don’t drink and drive and don’t let anyone else drink and drive,” said Parker, a Winston-Salem, N.C. native.
With the Marines and sailors filed out of the theatre and the tour employees preparing for the next day, Beldyga wanted to express the overall message of the whole event, “Just take the keys.”