No. 1217



My wife Janis is a terrific cook. In fact, she has written four cookbooks that have been sold in stores and gift shops all across the nation. Almost every week I see her with her finger on a page in one of them, selecting ingredients for a dessert or some other dish that is sure to please. We eat most of our meals at home, but because of our busy schedule we also eat out two or three times each week. Our favorite place to go here in our community is Cracker Barrel, I guess because they serve a lot of meals that are almost like home-cooked.
While sitting there eating we see a number of other dining guests pass by. Some of them are overweight, and occasionally we see someone who is terribly obese. I can tell you for sure my heart hurts for this person because I know, based on statistics, they are not going to live a long life. It has to be a terrible burden to have to carry around an extra hundred or more pounds everywhere they go. This scene also plays out each week when I go to the grocery store.
This condition is not only present in the general population, but there is another area in our society that has reached critical mass in terms of our nation’s security. I am talking about those individuals who have a desire to go into military service. My eyes were opened recently at our weekly prayer breakfast when Gen. Ron Chastain had the program. He talked about obesity as it relates to service in the Army, the branch where he served and spent a year in Iraq. One thing for sure, he got our attention.
In part, here is what he had to say. “If your doctor says you are overweight, it means you are slightly over what is considered healthy. Obesity is defined as being grossly fat or overweight. The Army defines obesity as greater than 30 percent body fat, for those 40 years of age and older. The Army also has height and weight standards, and note that the limits increase with age. Further, obesity has long threatened our nation’s health; as the epidemic grows, obesity is posing a threat to our nation’s national security as well.
“Nationwide, 71 percent of young people between ages 17-24 do not qualify for military service. The main reasons for disqualification are: 1. Lack of education. 2. History of crime or drug use. 3. Being overweight. Obesity disqualifies 31 percent of youth from serving, if they wish to serve. Ineligibility rates are a major reason why the Army did not meet its recruiting goal last year. The Army’s recruiting goal was 76,500 soldiers, however only 70,000 enlisted. This is why I guess they always say, ‘The Army is looking for a few good men, and now women as well’.
“Based on the numbers I have given you, of the remaining 29 percent who qualify, only 13 percent of these would qualify, be available, and pass the Armed Services Qualification Test. These numbers are particularly of concern, because as the recruitable population has declined, so has the interest in serving in the military. Last year only 11 percent of the 16- to 24-year-olds said they would definitely or probably be serving in the military. So with interest in military service declining, it is critical that those willing to serve are prepared to meet the standards for eligibility.”
Well, there was much more in Ron’s talk, but I believe I have given you the gist of why our nation is at peril from the standpoint of youth serving in the military because of obesity. If your children or grandchildren are interested in serving, tell them they need to get in shape. Another great benefit is that they will live longer.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)