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Too fat, too frail to serve, report states

By BEATRIZ ALVARADO | Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Texas | Published: October 10, 2015

The average of Texas young adults ineligible to serve their county is higher than the national average, a report states.

Retired Army Brigadier General Joe E. Ramirez Jr., also Commandant of Texas A&M University's Corps of Cadets, said the leading reason behind ineligibility is applicants are overweight and generally unhealthy.

In Texas, 73 percent of young adults can't serve. The national average is about 30 percent.

"It's been a problem for a while," he said. "Our country is getting bigger and that concerns a lot of us."

As part of a statewide speaking tour, Ramirez visited Flour Bluff and West Oso high schools this week to discuss obesity's impact on the military and ways to improve children's health in the state. He used talking points from a report by the nonprofit Mission: Readiness titled "Too Fat, Frail and Out-of-Breath to Fight."

Ramirez is a Mission: Readiness member. The nonpartisan organization of more than 550 retired generals, admirals and other senior retired leaders propose three solutions to Texas cities and school districts: Build physical activity into communities; build physical activity into the school day; and continue with healthier school meals.

The report urges city and school district officials to consider Safe Routes to School projects, of which 8,000 Texas cities have implemented. The city of Austin's Public Works department projects — Safe Routes to School and Urban Trails — are cited to be good examples of building physical activity into communities. The projects have helped increase the number of children who walk and bike to and from school by improving sidewalks, bicycle paths, intersections, traffic signals and other infrastructure, the report states.

One participating school in Austin saw an increase of about 550 students willing to ride their bike or walk to school after changes were implemented, the report states.

Texas schools' meals are up to par with national nutrition standards, but more than 60 percent of Texas adolescents report having no physical education in an average week, the report states.

Ramirez said military leaders' and the organization's authority carries enough weight to make the solutions attainable.

"This affects the ability of qualified men and women to defend the country," he said. "Being able to rely on our youth is critical."

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