And for all those years Tom has been going before our City Council pleading the case for the construction of more of such trails, including sidewalks through neighborhoods and along routes that would accommodate children walking to school.
On more than one occasion Tom has stood during a City Council meeting and stated for the record that sidewalks and walking and biking trails are needed not only in our city but in cities across America, not only for health and safety, but as a matter of national security.
Tom's rationale has been that American youngsters, lacking sidewalks on which they can walk through their neighborhoods and to school and trails over which they can bike and hike and get some outdoor exercise, risk growing up into young adults who are too out of shape to serve in our armed forces. Thus our military could eventually be unable to find enough recruits who can meet the minimum weight and and physical fitness requirements for enlistment in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.
"So what did City Council say when you told them about your sidewalks-and-bike-trails-for national-security theory?" I once asked Tom after he spoke on the subject at a meeting.
"They didn't say anything," Tom replied. "They just smiled."
I'll bet they did, I thought at the time.
However as it turns out, the Lieutenant Colonel has been steel-on-target (as they say in the Field Artillery) for all these years.
Apparently the U.S. Military is having a huge problem with out-of-shape recruits. They're arriving at boot camp physically weak and overweight and they're getting injured during basic training, which has had to be softened because so few recruits can hack the traditional standards.
These out-of-shape recruits are becoming out-of-shape troops who have trouble running, climbing, and marching for miles with packs on their backs while carrying rifles. They lack the stamina for combat duty. If an over-weight soldier is injured during combat his or her comrades have a hard time carrying them.
According to an article in the Military Times entitled, "The U.S. military has a huge problem with obesity and it's only getting worse," 7.4% of men in the military and 10.3% of women are overweight:
The U.S. Army commissioned a study on its recent inability to find enough recruits from the Southeastern states - from where come the greatest number of Army enlistees – in good enough shape to be accepted into the Army. Hence the size of our military is shrinking while the size of our soldiers is growing.
“This has a real impact on national security,” said Daniel Bornstein, the researcher who led the Army’s study.
Which brings us back to what Tom’s been saying for years.
Now, I see two grand ironies in the problems that obesity and lack of physical fitness among America’s youth is causing for our military and subsequently our national security:
Grand Irony #1:
Donald Trump has proposed a gargantuan, skies-the-limit defense budget that includes hundreds of billions of dollars for more, bigger, and newer weaponry and a giant wall, all in the name of national security.
Meanwhile our troops are getting too fat to fight.