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WASHINGTON Increasing rates of obesity among young Americans could undermine the future of the US military, with potential recruits increasingly too fat to serve, two retired generals said on Friday.
"Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military," generals John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, both former chairs of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a commentary.
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"...The two generals urged Congress to adopt legislation that would ensure better nutrition in schools, offering children more vegetables, fruits and whole grains while cutting back on foods with high sugar, sodium and fat content. .."
A Message from America’s Retired Generals, Admirals and Civilian Military Leaders:
As retired Generals, Admirals, and other senior leaders of the United States Armed Forces, we know firsthand that national security must be America’s top priority.
Our organization recently released a report citing Department of Defense data indicating that an alarming 75 percent of all young Americans 17 to 24 years of age are unable to join the military because they failed to graduate from high school, have criminal records, or are physically unfit.
Being overweight or obese turns out to be the leading medical reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service. Today, otherwise excellent recruit prospects, some of them with generations of sterling military service in their family history, are being turned away because they are just too overweight.
We have witnessed countless acts of bravery and courage during our time in the Armed Forces. We are deeply proud of the talent and commitment of the young men and women in uniform. Our standards are high because we clearly cannot have people in our command who are not up to the job. Too many lives depend on it.
To reduce America’s obesity rates we must start with the basics. In addition to exercise, we know that maintaining a balanced diet is key to long-term health and fitness. We also know that the childhood years are critical to the formation of sound eating habits. Millions of children buy breakfast, lunch and snacks in school every day. Properly managed, the school environment can be instrumental in fostering healthful eating habits that will last a lifetime.
We are calling on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation that would (a) get the junk food out of our schools; (b) support increased funding to improve nutritional standards and the quality of meals served in schools; and (c) provide more children access to effective programs that cut obesity.
If we don’t take steps now to build a strong, healthy foundation for our young people, then it won’t just be our military that pays the price – our nation as a whole will suffer also.