I just got done watching an installment on a television morning show. The title of the piece was “Unfit to Fight.” It told how a high percentage of America’s population does not fit into the military definition of a person who is fit to enter the service. It hit a nerve with me and I wanted to tell you my story.
In 1983 I joined the Army National Guard. I waited until after my eighteenth birthday because my parents thought (correctly) that it wasn’t a good fit for me so I had to wait until I was an adult and could legally sign a contract. I wanted to make the Army a career. I had taken the pre-enlistment test and was told I was qualified for any job within the services so my future seemed pretty wide open. I thought I would start in the National Guard and then progress into the Army if I liked it.
I spent my senior year in high school going to monthly drill and planned to leave for basic training the following June. I was 5’8” and 220 pounds so I did not meet the military height/weight chart however they had measured the fat content of my body and I was only one pound too high. I visited the bathroom, came back, and was right on. My recruiter told me basic training would go fine.
It did not go fine. It the processing station I was weighed and a Sargent looked at me like I had three heads and said “what do you think you’re doing here.” I told him I’d been pinch tested and that my recruiter said no to worry about the height versus weight chart. The Sargent told me, “son, you’re recruiter $%*@%^$ you.” (my recruiter apologized several years later, I bare no hard feelings toward him.)
At the time I was able to do 114 sit-ups in two minutes and seventy push-ups in the same amount of time. I lifted weights constantly and had a youthful lack of fear. I could run, shoot a gun and was aggressive. The only thing I couldn’t do was fit into a chart which I’d been told was derived from something an insurance company had produced in the mid forties. I came home and was put on the “chub club” back at the local armory while men with pipe stem legs, and pigeon chests that blended into belly’s that strained their uniforms were seen as healthy because they fit the chart.
Very few athletic records stand from the the 1940′s. The reason is people have become bigger and stronger. An athlete from seven decades ago might have weighed 170 pounds and ran a six second forty yard dash, they would fit the military chart for a healthy person. Today a contemporary athlete might weigh one hundred pounds more and be a good second or more faster in the forty. This contemporary athlete would not fit the military height/weight chart as “fit to serve” and would have joined me in the “chub club.” Superior strength and speed come about because of increased muscle which increases the weight of your body. Does anyone really believe that a stronger, faster human is less effective because he or she does not fit a “health chart” drawn out by some actuarial whose life expectancy was a whole fifteen years shorter than the average man lives today? Am I the only one who sees the irony of this situation?
I know more and more people are too fat today, and therefore unable to serve in the military . However, there are many more people who carry a dense mixture of muscle, bone and patriotism who will be passed over because of some chart. I was unable to serve my country not because I wasn’t strong enough, smart enough or courageous enough. A chart said I was not “fit to fight.” I beg your pardon?