Alaska Law Would Allow Military to Drink at Age 18

Wednesday, 06 Apr 2011 04:32 PM


  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska is the latest state to weigh in on a long-running argument: If you're old enough to fight and die for your country, you should be old enough to drink a beer.

An Alaska lawmaker who served in Vietnam is pushing a bill that would allow active-duty service members under 21 to drink alcohol as long as they could produce an armed forces identification card. Those under 19 — Alaska's smoking age — would be allowed to buy tobacco products.

"It's not fair that one guy in a fox hole can go home and have a beer while another guy in the fox hole can't," said Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage. "It's not about drinking, it's not about smoking, it's about equality. If you get shot at, you can have a shot."

But Lynn's bill has received a cool reception from the state's armed forces commanders, who worry it would encourage unhealthy behavior in a military that wants to reduce smoking and curb drinking.

And if the bill passes, the state stands to lose at least $17 million in federal highway funding, state transportation officials say, because Alaska would be in violation of the national minimum drinking age statute. In a state where alcohol abuse is blamed for many social and financial ills, a lower drinking age is a distinction few want.

"It sends a mixed message. For some it's OK, for others it's not," said Royal Bidwell, business manager of the Forget Me Not Foundation, an anti-drunken driving group based in Wasilla.

The law could set a precedent, said Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, where any young person whose profession puts them at risk of losing their life, such as police or firefighters, could be allowed to drink.

Kentucky, South Carolina and Wisconsin have all considered similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but nothing has ever come into law. U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, proposed a similar measure last year that ultimately died in committee.

About 2,000 soldiers under age 21 serve in the Army in Alaska, said Maj. Bill Coppernoll, public affairs officer for U.S. Army Alaska. Federal law prohibits them from drinking on base.

Alcohol is involved in a third of misconduct incidents on Alaska's military installation, three generals said in a letter to Rep. Dan Saddler, co-chairman of the House Special Committee on Military & Veterans' Affairs.

Lowering the drinking age could further increase drunken driving arrests of young soldiers who would drive back from off-base bars, they said.

"While consumption of alcohol is often regarded as a 'privilege of adulthood,' when our Service men and women deploy, they understand even those of drinking age may not be allowed to consume alcohol while deployed," said the letter from Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, commander of the Alaska Command, and Maj. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo, commanding general of U.S. Army Alaska. "It is just part of the sacrifice military members make."

The legislation may linger before lawmakers decide anything. It's being considered by a committee that doesn't meet again this year.

Maria Wylie, a 20-year-old Army ROTC cadet at University of Alaska Fairbanks, said the measure sounded fair, as long as soldiers of all ages ensure they don't drink and drive.

Cody Short, a cadet in the Army ROTC at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said he was unsure why a special law should be created just for young soldiers.

"We follow the laws applied to the U.S," said Short, 20. "I can wait till I'm 21."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Changing Demographics Make Iowa Senate Race Tough to Call

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 11:28 AM

With just two weeks to go until the midterm elections, Iowa's first Senate race in 30 years is extremely close, and the  . . .

Prosecutor: Friend of Accused Boston Bomber Lied Repeatedly

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 11:04 AM

A friend of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect lied repeatedly to investigators before eventually confessing about his  . . .

Gallup: Ebola Worries Americans, But Behind Economy, Jobs

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 10:57 AM

A new poll on Tuesday showed Ebola has moved into the top 10 issues of concern to Americans but ranks behind the economy . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved