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We know that rural kids are more apt to join the military than kids in the cities. Where there is more opportunity (more jobs or better access to higher education), young people are less likely to join the armed forces. But how many young men and women really have the opportunity to join the military? Only one out of four, we learned this week. Three out of four young Americans (age 17 to 24) are ineligible to serve in the nation’s military. 75 percent. The name of the report documenting this figure is “Ready, Willing, and Unable to Serve.” 

Here’s the rundown on why three out of four young people aren’t fit to join the military: One out of four young Americans lacks a high school diploma. If you drop out of school, you don’t qualify. One in ten young Americans have a prior conviction for a felony or a misdemeanor serious enough to disqualify them from service. Twenty-seven percent of young Americans are too overweight to join the military. (In Pennsylvania, the percentage of overweight kids doubled between ’87 and ’07.)

There are other reasons kids don’t qualify. They may have bad eyes or asthma or ADHD or drug problems. So when you get down to it, only 2 out of 10 young people even qualify for service — and another 5 percent are close enough to get a waiver.

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