SPRINGFIELD — Every year, more Illinoisans are not accepted into the military because of their lack of education, poor physical fitness or criminal backgrounds, a group of state lawmakers and veterans said Wednesday.
At a news conference at the statehouse, the Mission-Readiness coalition pointed to research showing 71 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States are not eligible to join the military. And 24 percent of Illinoisans cannot join because they score too low on the Armed Forces Qualification Test.
State Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, who formerly served as adjutant general of Illinois, said, “the folks that make the military run, the nuts and bolts, are those young men and women.”
Retired vice admiral Nancy Brown of Marion said other countries are investing in the people who become a part of their military and the U.S. should do the same.
“If we’re to remain competitive and the best military in the world, we have to like invest in our youth,” she said.
Brown listed statistics, noting that 1 in 5 students nationwide and 14 percent in Illinois fail to graduate from high school in the standard time.
“There is a fundamental linkage between our public school system and our future economic and national security well-being,” Brown said.
Brown said preschool is the most important way to lay a foundation for the state’s youth in order to create citizens for the military.
The organization also laid out statistics by county. One of the frequent issues people are being denied admittance into the military is because of obesity. The lowest percent of adult obesity by county in Illinois is 25 percent and the highest is 34 percent.
State Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, said it is time for Illinois to do something about the problem.
“There’s no doubt the earlier you can affect a child’s life, the better off the outcome will be, the better off the lifestyle decisions and the lifestyle changes you can make in that child’s life ” Costello said.
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