Cherry Hill, New Jersey teen loses 60 pounds to enlist in Army

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Mario Papaneri is a senior at Cherry Hill High School West. The 18-year-old enlisted in the Army after losing 60 pounds to meet the requirement.

"I don't fear a challenge. I'm ready for it and I know it'll be hard, but I'm ready for boot camp," says Papaneri.

He wasn't always physically fit. Five months ago he certainly couldn't finish the training workouts.

"At that time I was 260 pounds. Before I even started anything to join the army I had to lose the weight," he says.

So, he did.

"That's all self-drive and determination. You have to dig down deep in yourself to really get there," said Staff Sergeant Edward McKenna, an Army Recruiter.

Papaneri said his desire to serve his country is the driving force behind his transformation.

"I just wanted to be a part of it. I just wanted to be a part of whatever the bigger picture is. Serving my country, protecting," he said.

In five months he shed 60 pounds by changing his diet and sticking to a grueling regimen.

"I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and I would do an hour on the elliptical. Then I'd go to school, I'd get out at 10:30, then I'd go miles on the treadmill. After that, I'd go to work at a construction company with my dad, so I'd be running around," said Papaneri.

His transformation can serve as a lesson for anyone.

"Don't give up. If this is what you want, go after it. There are a lot of feel-good stories out there, make your own," said McKenna.

Now, he's ready to face yet another hurdle.

"I'm just ready to go to boot camp and become, really become a soldier," says Papaneri.

Papaneri will graduate from high school in June. He'll head out for basic combat training in Fort Leonardwood in Missouri in July.
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