Pubdate: Mon, 05 Feb 2007
Source: Redlands Daily Facts (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Redlands Daily Facts
Author: David James Heiss, Staff Writer


REDLANDS - At Lugonia Elementary School the life of  slain Drug
Enforcement Agency officer Enrique "Kiki"  Camarena has been virtually
immortalized: his visage  peers down from a wall overlooking the
school's garden.  His bust, unveiled during Red Ribbon Week in 2004,
graces the school library.

In keeping the spirit of his life's work alive,  fifth-graders in
retired teacher Diana Holly's classes  - and as many community
supporters - have signed dozens  of petitions and sent countless
letters over the past  several years encouraging the Postal Service to
issue  an Enrique Camarena stamp.

It is a campaign that Holly, who retired from teaching  in 2003, has
not given up on.

And almost every other year, it seems, the Postal  Service offers
Holly and her followers a glimmer of  hope, exchanging its own
correspondences acknowledging  her efforts. The most recent one
arrived last month,  dated Jan. 16.

The Postal Service seems to agree that Camarena is  worth
consideration for a U.S. postal stamp.

Camarena was an undercover agent for the Drug  Enforcement Agency who
was kidnapped, tortured and  killed while on assignment in
Guadalajara, Mexico, in  1985 by drug traffickers. His life was the
inspiration  behind October's Red Ribbon Week.

His widow Mika and his sisters Niki Jimenez, Myrna Camarena and Bertha
Tamayo have visited Lugonia School on a couple of occasions to
recognize the school's  dedication to remembering Camarena's life.

The Postal Service informed Holly in January that her  proposal has
been passed on to the Citizen's Stamp  Advisory Committee - as it has
twice before in the past  seven years.

"I was shocked" to receive the latest letter, Holly  said. "I felt
something good about it before I even  opened it."

According to Holly, "Every year when we send in  signatures and
letters - usually after Red Ribbon Week  - we receive a letter
acknowledging our stuff."

To add incentive for the Postal Service's  consideration, Lugonia
School has sent along signed red  ribbons, T-shirts, newsletters and
newspaper articles.

Alex Romero, a former colleague of Camarena's, first  contacted Holly
after a newspaper story appeared in  1998 highlighting the initial
efforts of Holly's class  to write to the Postal Service on behalf of
Camarena.  At the time Romero, an alumnus of Lugonia School, was  an
agent for the DEA in Fresno. It was through him that  Camarena's
family came to know the Lugonia School  community.

In its latest letter, Terrence McCaffrey, Postal  Service's manager
for stamp development in Arlington,  W. Va. wrote, "You may be pleased
to know that this  proposal will be placed before the Citizen's Stamp
Advisory Committee. The Committee is responsible for  reviewing stamp
proposals and making subject and design  recommendations to the
Postmaster General ' Currently,  the 2007 and 2008 stamp programs are
completed, and  stamp subjects for the 2009 program and subsequent
years are being selected."

Edward Carmona, a diversity development specialist for  the San Diego
district of the Postal Service, which  covers Redlands, shares in
Holly's enthusiasm.

"Postal employees are not allowed to campaign" for  stamp designs or
commemorations, said Carmona, who has  met Holly and follows her
progress. "It's supposed to  be strictly a public activity, but I'm
certainly in  support of this worthy cause."

According to Carmona, the U.S. Postal Service receives  nearly 10,000
submissions for stamp ideas every year.  "I wish I had a mathematical
formula for the chances"  that a stamp for Enrique Camarena would be
issued, he  said. "They issue 20 to 30 stamps a year, and chances  for
selection are small. But she made it to the actual  board, which is a
promising event."

Perhaps "three time's a charm," as the saying goes.  Holly certainly
hasn't lost hope.

"We're looking at a time frame now of maybe 2009,"  Holly pointed out.
"I've noticed before when they're  selecting stamps they tend to do a
theme for the whole  year. I once received a letter telling me they
were  working on stamps to honor all law enforcement."

Holly has received subtle hints, though she declined to  say from who,
that this time is for real.

"I know they're working on a stamp. I know a design has  been approved
for 2009," she said. "Maybe that will be  the year for community."

Whether a stamp is issued or not, Holly simply hopes  that future
generations remember the man behind Red  Ribbon Week.

"Most kids thought it was just about drugs," Holly  said. "His name
would be mentioned here and there, but  kids didn't really know much
about him. Every year I  did my best to let them know there was a real
person  behind Red Ribbon Week, and that it was more  significant than
wearing a ribbon."

If readers wish to campaign for a stamp honoring  Enrique "Kiki"
Camarena, correspondence may be sent to  the Citizen's Stamp Advisory
Committee, c/o Stamp  Management, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant
Plaza,  SW, Room 4474EB, Washington, D.C. 20260-6756.
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