Since 9/11, America and its leaders have focused on national security. The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” are now part of our language, just like “Coca Cola,” “french fries,” “Budweiser,” and “Big Mac.” There is no doubt that our national security can be compromised by decreased solidarity, weakening relationships with our allies, unresolved conflicts with other countries, and our own national debt. However, it also appears that youth obesity can be threatening the security of our nation.
As retired U.S. Army General Johnnie E. Wilson says: “Child obesity has become so serious in this country that military leaders are viewing this epidemic as a potential threat to our national security.” Why? For military personnel, the physical abilities of their colleagues can be the difference between life and death — especially when soldiers are too fat to fight.
In today’s New York Times, an article titled “Making Soldiers Fit to Fight, Without the Sit-ups” is on the front page. The article reports a program implemented by the Army to deal with overweight and unfit recruits. The main reasons young Americans are turned down by the military are: lack of a high-school diploma; having a criminal record; and—most often—for excessive weight. This makes sense to me. It would be hard for overweight recruits to reach the fitness standards required by the military.
A weight problem prevents you from getting into the armed services, and it can get you thrown out. According to the article, each year the military discharges over 1,200 first-term enlistees—because of weight problems—before their contracts are up. The military must then recruit and train replacements at a cost of $50,000 for each soldier, for a total expenditure of more than $60 million a year. Youth obesity is usually caused by fast foods, sugary drinks, energy beverages, and a lack of physical activity. Evidently, junk food and laziness have created a generation too fat to serve in our armed forces. This is a national security issue.
To read the New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/us/31soldier.html