MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – --
A 16-year-old girl answers her cell phone to hear the voice of a long-time friend. “Can you come pick me up?” said a voice on the other end. “I’m stupid drunk, don’t want to drive home.”
The girl hesitates, fully aware of how her parents would react if they found out about the underage drinking. “I can’t. My parents will kill me if they know about this,” she said. “Sorry girl, wish I could.”
“Fine, I guess I will try someone else. Later,” her friend said. The girl went to sleep, not realizing the conversation she just had would turn into a lifelong regret.
She woke up the next morning to learn her friend was killed that night in a drunk driving accident.
This was just one of many incidents Christopher Rich, with the Save-a-Life Tour, remembered as he spoke to the Marines and sailors aboard the Combat Center.
The worldwide Save-a-Life Tour visited Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, 2010, and held sessions in Sunset Cinema to bring a message against drunk driving and encourage the Marines and sailors on the installation to make wise choices that could save their lives.
The program is another way to fight drunk driving, said Bobby Piirainen, the Combat Center traffic and motorcycle safety manager. The Marines and sailors were shown a 20-minute video of scenes from drunk driving accidents and how it affects families. The graphic nature of the material is to show people the reality of what drunk driving does, not to disgust them, Rich said.
“We are here to further educate people and let them know what could happen.”
Rich started his time with the tour nearly 11 years ago because of a drunk driving incident that changed his life.
“I am here because my sister was in a drunk driving accident, and [I] want to save the lives of others,” Rich said, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich. “[This program] is definitely making a difference. I have seen it decrease in some places I’ve been.”
After the short film, Rich spoke to the Marines and shared some of the consequences of drunk driving. Taking care of each other was one point he stressed above the others.
The seminar educated Marines and sailors on the real danger of drunk driving, and also the consequences if ever caught. A Marine who receives a driving under the influence (DUI) ticket will be handed over to the Marine Provost Marshal’s Office and may receive non-judicial punishment, loss of driving privileges, restriction, loss of rank and pay.
“It hit me really hard,” said Pvt. Christopher Graham, a student at the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School. “I know a lot of people who do stupid stuff like drinking and driving. I want to go back and tell them the good things I learned here.”
The military has a responsibility to be an example for the world outside of the installation, Rich said. “Be there for your fellow Marine. If they need a ride, be there for them. Look out for each other.”
The military has tools, such as Arrive Alive cards, to help fight the battle against driving while intoxicated.
“Think before you drink,” Piirainen said. “There are too many tools and avenues to use that they don’t have to get behind the wheel.”
For more information on the Arrive Alive card or other helpful tools to fight drunk driving, contact the Installation’s Safety Office at 830-8463.