Most Louisianans miss it, but the military understands the importance of child well-being. This evening as I read, “Retired military brass tell why 75 percent of Louisiana’s young people wouldn’t qualify for service” in The Advocate, I was reminded of a 102-year-old news article stored in my files. I found it.

On February 9, 1916, the Shreveport Times published the article, “Seeks probe of child poverty: Joint resolution introduced in House by Mr. Keating.” That article from 102 years ago expressed the concern that only 50% of the individuals of recruitment age qualified for military service. Today, a century later, only 25% qualify. Our children have lost significant ground!

“Representative Keating’s 1916 resolution recites that, “proper preparation of our country for national defense demands the creation of conditions favorable to the birth and growth of healthy and sane men and women; and recruiting officers of the military and naval service of the United States have reported that more than 50 percent of the young men applying for enlistment are defective physically or mentally, or both …”

Representative Edward Keating of Colorado continued, “If we want real national preparedness, we must begin to prepare the human material upon which the nation must depend in time of need.” “We have to face this problem… we must begin to give the children a chance; we must not attempt to build ‘military preparedness’ on a rotten foundation.”

That was then. The language was blunt.

Today, it is admirable that retired generals and admirals are appealing to Louisiana’s legislators to give attention to the needs of children. These military leaders committed their careers to ensuring the security of our nation. Today, they invest their retirement years in the same cause.

In 1916, about 50% of young people did not qualify for military service. Today, only 25% qualify. In 102 years, we have not improved child well-being for purposes of military preparedness. In fact, we have not improved child well-being for any purpose!

I find it sad that during the last 102 years, the status of child well-being has slipped so that today retired generals and admirals are voluntarily stepping out of retirement to plead with Louisiana’s legislators to do right by our children; to prioritize funding for Louisiana’s Child Care Assistance Program, “where enrollment dropped from almost 40,000 children in 2007 to 17,000 in 2017 and now (has) a wait list”, and to support “affordable day care programs to allow parents to remain in the workforce”.

Louisiana, we have lost 100 years of opportunity to improve child well-being. It seems ironic that the military has always understood the importance of child well-being. I wish we all understood Louisiana’s future depends upon the health and well-being of our children!