LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — According to the Pentagon, more than 70% of America's youth aren't eligible to serve in the military.
Failure to meet the military's height and weight requirements is the number one disqualifier of 18-34 year-olds.
But one Las Vegas man didn't let that stop him.
"I had struggled with weight my whole life. I’ve always been a big kid," said Luis Enrique Pinto Jr.
"I just didn’t see myself working a regular 9-to-5 every day. I definitely wanted to do something, get out there. I knew that if I were to pick up a job, I’ll be staying here for a while. There’s a whole world out there and I definitely wanted to go and see it," said Pinto.
After visiting a recruiter, Pinto was convinced the Army would be his way out, but was devastated to learn his weight wouldn't let him enlist.
"You have to meet height and weight standards. So, depending on the individual’s height and age, they have to either meet a maximum weight or we can do what’s called a tape test, where we measure, for males, their neck and their abdomen. We use their height and also their weight to come up with a body fat percentage," said Philip Long, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army.
At 317 pounds, Luis Pinto was not allowed to enlist.
"After talking to a recruiter, I realized that the only thing holding me back was my weight," said Pinto. "That night, I made a promise to myself that i didn’t care how long it was going to take."
Driven by his desire to serve, Pinto went to work, eating healthy and working out every day.
"When no one was looking, I was doing push-ups in my room, eating right, knowing what to eat. I feel like everyone has the power to know what they take into their body, so I just took that into consideration. I just did the right thing at the end of the day," said Pinto.
Over a span of just 7 months, Pinto lost 114 pounds, not only impressing his family and friends, but his Army recruiter too.
"There were a couple times where he hit a plateau. He would lose a pound or two, maybe. But to continue to push forward and put the effort and dedication in, it inspires me and it should inspire you," said Sergeant Long.
Luis Pinto's weight loss has left no doubt about his dedication or if he's strong enough to serve.
"Just that feeling that you have wearing that uniform. Just how proud you are and what you work towards for it, I think that played a big part," said Pinto.
"He will have an amazing career. His dedication, his ability, his mental toughness, it will not only serve him well in the army, but also in life," said Sergeant Long.
Luis Pinto received a $16,000 bonus for volunteering to serve as a patriot fire control enhanced operator and maintainer, who will transport, troubleshoot, and manage some of the world’s most advanced missile systems. He says his next goal is to get into officer flight training so he can one day fly for the Army.