As a retired general, I am troubled this Veterans Day by Defense Department estimates that military service is now out of reach for 75 percent of young Americans. Weight problems are the leading medical reason why young adults cannot join, with one in four too overweight to enlist. In Missouri alone, more than 220,000 18- to 24-year-olds were overweight or obese in 2008.
While no single action will resolve the obesity issue, a comprehensive overhaul of our school nutrition and physical education programs is an excellent place to start. The school setting is critical for shaping the lifelong eating and exercise habits of our youth. Research shows that as much as 40 percent of a child's daily caloric intake occurs at school.
Legislation now before Congress would get the junk food out of schools, promote nutrition education and increase access to quality nutrition programs. That's why I am joining more than 100 retired generals and admirals in calling on Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and her colleagues in the House of Representatives to support final passage of a child nutrition reauthorization bill as a matter of national security. Congress should move quickly to pass this bipartisan legislation that is fully paid for when it returns to Washington later this month.
NORMAN R. SEIP, Lieutenant General (Ret.) USAF,