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Obesity Affects Number Of Those Eligible For Military Service

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Unhealthy eating habits could become an issue of national security. The Department of Defense says that obesity is affecting the number of Americans eligible to serve in the military.

Jessica Kartalija reports now there's a push for kids to eat healthier.

Recruiting for our military is facing a growing challenge.

"I am very concerned about the reduced number of men and women who can meet all of the qualifications required to serve in our armed forces," said retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Steven Tomaszeski.

Now, retired admirals from Maryland are releasing a report, citing obesity as the number one reason young adults can't serve in the military.

"Nearly one quarter, 25 percent of all Americans ages 17-24 are too overweight to serve. Obesity is not only affecting those who can qualify for military service, it is also creating challenges for our active duty military," Tomaszeski said.

The Department of Defense says more than 70 percent of young people are unable to serve in the military.

"This report shows that obesity is the leading medical reason why 70 percent of young adults in Maryland are unable to serve in today's military. And that within the military itself, obesity rates have risen a staggering 61 percent since 2002," said A.B. Cruz III, Rear Admiral USN (Ret).

Now they're pushing to update nutrition standards in Maryland schools and joining forces with kids as part of the Alliance For a Healthier Generation.

"It is important for youth to have a voice in the fight against childhood obesity," said Jodi Evans, a youth advisory board member. "The healthy habits we develop today will become the healthy habits we maintain as adults."

Also at issue: poor education, crime and drug use.

"Thirty percent of eligible Americans. That's all we have to draw from for our great armed forces. That's a great concern," said Tomaszeski.

The retired admirals are members of Mission: Readiness, made up of more than 500 retired admirals and generals working to ensure our future natural security.

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