Military

Wars Weighed Down?

Generals vs. snacks

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Some of the nation's top military brass—300 retired generals and admirals, including Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and James M. Loy, former deputy secretary of homeland security—are worried that American kids are too fat to fight.

Their report, issued in September, urges policy makers to reduce the availability of junk food in schools for the sake of military readiness. "400 billion calories of junk food are being sold in our schools every year," the report laments. "That's the equivalent of 2 billion candy bars. Put them on a scale and they would weigh almost 90 thousand tons. That's more than the aircraft carrier Midway." Earlier that month, first lady Michelle Obama delivered the same message on television, agreeing with celebrity physician Dr. Oz that "the greatest threat to national security that we have is obesity."

So how many kids are actually disqualified from service due to obesity? Not as many as the headlines suggest. The report says "75 percent of 17- to 24-year olds in the US cannot serve in the military, primarily because they are physically unfit, have not graduated from high school, or have a criminal record." But only 27 percent of Americans in that age group are obese. Meanwhile, many of the people with criminal records are nonviolent drug offenders. Which suggests the military may have to choose between fit weed smokers and fat Twinkie
eaters.