I agree with Ben Gilman that high-quality early education is important to Maine’s future (“Commentary: Investing in early education is critical for Maine’s workforce,” Nov. 17).

As a retired admiral who served as commander of the Navy Recruiting Command, I want to let readers know that quality early education is also important for our future national security.

The startling reality is that only 30 percent of young people in Maine, and across the country, qualify to serve in our military. Almost unbelievably, the other 70 percent cannot serve because they are too poorly educated, too overweight or have a record of crime or drug abuse.

One of the most proven ways to meet this challenge is with high-quality early education. Research studies show that children who have participated in quality early learning programs perform better academically, are more likely to graduate from high school, are less likely to become involved with crime and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight on the road to a lifelong culture of health.

For all of these reasons, I encourage state and federal policymakers to preserve and improve access to high-quality early learning programs for at-risk kids. Investing in early education will have positive benefits for our children and help keep our country safe and strong.

J.D. Williams

vice admiral, U.S. Navy (retired)

Westport Island