If you've been following the news, you know that childhood obesity has become the cause du jour for First Lady Michelle Obama.
To be fair, Mrs. Obama has a point. We are raising a nation of fat kids, for a variety of reasons. The lifestyle police are quick to blame fast food outlets and producers of junk food, but the problem begins at home. Instead of engaging in physical activity, the little lard asses spend too much time in front of a TV, the computer or their Wii.
Making matters worse, many schools have eliminated physical education, or P.E. classes involving rigorous activity. Wouldn't want our kids to feel bad about themselves because they can't sink a basket, or toss a football.
But is the "epidemic" of fat children a danger to our national security? The First Lady believes that it is. According to CNSnews.com (via Michelle Malkin), Mrs. Obama invoked that risk today, during an event at the White House.
“A recent study put the health care cost of obesity-related diseases at $147 billion a year,” Mrs. Obama said. “This epidemic also impacts the nation’s security, as obesity is now one of the most common disqualifiers for military service.”
The ceremony, attended by many officials of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, followed the signing earlier in the day of a presidential memorandum establishing a task force to study the problem and make recommendations after 90 days.
Obama announced a long list of goals she said she hopes the “Let’s Move” campaign will accomplish, including many that can be done “in a generation.”
Yes, it is true that military recruiters turn away their share of fat young men (and women). But listening to Michelle Obama's comments, you'd think that being overweight is enough to permanently disqualify someone from the armed forces. That simply isn't true.
Fact is, many recruiters are willing to work with overweight prospects--if they meet other enlistment criteria and lose the pounds. Ulysses Miliana, a former culinary student, weighed 330 pounds when he walked into a Marine Corps recruiting office back in December, 2007. Over the next year, Miliana lost 140 pounds, thanks (in part) to a workout regimen provided by his recruiters. He shipped out to boot camp eleven months later.
Miliana isn't the only recruit who shed weight to fulfill his military ambitions. Matt Mobley dropped more than 80 pounds to join the Air Force:
"I knew that I wanted to become an Airman more than anything else, so I set a goal for myself," he said.
Tech. Sgt Christopher Conaway, a Charleston area recruiter, gave Mr. Mobley information about the Air Force in September 2007 and told the potential recruit that he was there for him if he wanted some motivation along his journey to lose weight.
"I thought that was the last I would see of Mr. Mobley, because I would say that about nine out of 10 people never come back," Sergeant Conaway said. "Much to my surprise, Matt came into my office in October and then again in November and December. This young man was losing weight. I found myself becoming a huge Matt Mobley fan."
When Mr. Mobley found out that he had to lose nearly 80 pounds to qualify for the Air Force, he started eating healthy and exercising several times a day.
You can find similar stories from other branches of the military. Recruits willing to shape up (physically) can still enlist, once they meet required weight standards. In fact, obesity is one of the few disqualifiers that can be overcome, with nothing more than proper diet and exercise.
On the other hand, many prospective recruits are rejected for reasons that simply can't be "fixed." We refer to the thousands of young people put on Ritalin and scores of other psychotropic drugs. Or those with extensive criminal records. Or young men and women who can't score high enough on the ASVAB because they were "educated" in failing public schools.
In case you're wondering, the Army requires an overall score of 31 for enlistment; the Marine Corps minimum is 32. Sadly, many of those in the 18-24 age group (the military's primary recruiting demographic) can't achieve those modest scores.
Make no mistake; childhood obesity is a serious problem. But we should be equally concerned (some would say more concerned) about potential recruits who are permanently disqualified from military service because they've been medicated out of their minds; they have a criminal record that would make Al Capone proud, or they're simply too dumb.
Someone should ask Mrs. Obama if those factors represent a risk to our national security. And strangely enough, we haven't seen her crusading against the gross over-diagnosis of childhood ADD/HD and depression (and the "medication solution" so often prescribed); the wave of youth crime engulfing urban areas, and government schools that fail to teach even basic skills.
Some would even describe those problems as "epidemics." But not at the White House.