By Joe “Ragman” Tarnovsky STAFF WRITER

A group of retired military leaders have come to the conclusion and in fact, they were very blunt, childhood obesity was a major threat to our country’s national security and the report was titled, “Too Fat To Fight.”

The overweight problem in our society for young adults is at epidemic proportions and the percentage of people too fat for military service between the ages of 17 to 24 is at a staggering 27 percent and getting worse. Ten years ago there was just one state that had 40 percent or more of their young adult population overweight and now that figure has ballooned to 39 states. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that being overweight is the main reason that would be soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are rejected from serving in the all volunteer military today.

For many of the recruits that do make it into the military at present, many of them still have problems because of their poor diets from civilian life. Many new recruits are not in as good as shape as their predecessors and the percentages of those entering the military today that fail the basic fitness test have risen dramatically since 2000. Stress fractures are common in recruits because in their civilian lives their diets were low in calcium and iron.

In response to the poor physical condition for many of the new recruits trying to join the Army today, this branch of America’s armed forces has altered its long standing physical regimen of pushups, sit-ups and long distance running to activities that soldiers actually do in combat which is crouching, sprinting, climbing and rolling. The Drill Sergeants put an emphasis on agility and balance which is what is important as these recruits will be carrying body armor, backpack and weapon which can equal 60 to 70 pounds of gear and often times in oppressive heat.

It seems the Army officials blame junk food, video games and the decline in gym classes on this new wave of unfit and fat recruits that cannot seem to make the cut when a new recruit tries to become a member of America’s new volunteer military. The retired military leaders blamed the problem of obesity almost entirely on junk food. Whatever is to blame for the overweight epidemic in our country for young adults one thing is clear, there is definitely a problem!

Poor diets in young adults is not the first time that this phenomenon has been a problem for military readiness for our nation. During World War II, 40 percent of the recruits rejected for military service were turned down because of poor nutrition. When WW2, “the big one” ended, General Lewis Hershey, those of us that were prime age for the draft during Vietnam remember him, was influential in helping to get passed the National School Lunch Act that was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1946. I remember those school lunches at New Smyrna Beach Senior High School in Florida, they were pretty good and if my memory serves me correctly they were only fifty cents. I guess Hershey was making sure we were nutritionally fit before sending us over to Vietnam.

Now we have the problem of too much fat and over nourishment in young adult’s diets and not under nourishment and it really seems to be a serious problem. Remember when we were kids, we were out playing baseball, football, army and riding bicycles and today you hardly ever see children outside playing. Going to the stores you see a lot of children and young people that are grossly overweight. We see exercise programs started by the White House and First Lady for children but the overweight problem continues. If the situation does not correct itself soon, we will see more intervention by our leaders in the civilian and military world, they have to keep recruitment up because a draft would never succeed in this day and age.


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Joe is a Vietnam Combat Veteran, having served 26 months in the Republic Of South Vietnam, 10 months with Company A, 27th Combat Engineers, 28 August 1968 to June 1969, and 16 months as a crewchief/doorgunner with the 240th Assault Helicopter company on UH-1C Hueys, the Mad Dog Gunship Platoon from July 1969 to 22 October 1970. Joe graduated from Cuyahoga Community College in 1982 with a Associate Of Arts Degree and from Cleveland State University in 1986 with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology; he also accumulated 12 hours of graduate work at Cleveland State. He lives with his best friend, his wife, and they have 34 rescued cats, 7 rescued dogs. Joe has spoken at high schools and colleges for 25 years about PTSD, war and how not to treat returning veterans when they come home to America after fighting for their country.