“If you get shot at, you can have a shot.”
That’s the thinking of Alaska State Representative Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage), a Vietnam vet who’s behind a bill that would lower the state’s drinking age to 18 for every person who can show a valid armed forces identification. He’s also calling for lowering the tobacco buying age from 19 to 18 for armed forces members.
“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,” say Lynn. “It’s not about drinking, it’s not about smoking, it’s about equality.”
According to Major Bill Coppernoll, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Army in Alaska, there are about 2,000 soldiers under 21 who serve in the state.
And there are 17 million reasons why Lynn’s bill is bound to fail. That’s the amount of federal highway funding Alaska stands to lose if they lower the drinking age.
Leaders in the armed forces also oppose the bill, as they fear it will lead to more drinking and smoking in the ranks, something they are already trying to curb. Right now alcohol plays a factor in about one-third of all military misconduct cases in Alaska.
Rep. Alan Austerman (R-Kodiak) see another issue. He thinks other folks who work in harms way, like firefighters and police officers, would ask for a similar exception to the drinking age if the precedent is set with Lynn’s bill.
This whole thing reminds me of what the awesome Mojo Nixon said in his 1986 classic Burn Down the Malls:
You know if Regan finally gets the war he’s looking for, do you think he’s going to be drafting 21 year old? No man, they’re gonna be drafting 18 and 19 year olds. But you can’t buy a beer. You can get married and screw yourself up real good, but you can’t buy a beer. You can charge $8,000,000 on the Master Charge, but you can’t buy a beer. You can vote for one fool or another, but you can’t buy a beer. Cause this is America, America run by the lowest common denominator.
Preach it, Mojo.
But the law’s the law. As 20 year old ROTC cadet Cody Short says, “We follow the laws applied to the U.S. I can wait till I’m 21.” I agree with Cody on this one. Change the law for everyone or leave it alone.
I also see a huge hole in Rep. Lynn’s reasoning. He speaks of getting “shot at” and being “in a foxhole,” but those aren’t things that happen in Alaska. Those are things that happen in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are both places NOBODY in the armed services are allowed to drink alcohol. This is in accordance with General Order Number 1A, Section 2C, which forbids alcohol consumption (or home brewing – bummer!) by any service member while stationed in a country where alcohol is banned.
So what happens in Alaska really doesn’t equate to the risks of battle, even if the young men and women of our armed forces stationed there might eventually be put in harm’s way. Either way, they’re not getting a beer.
At any rate, nothing’s going to happen with this bill soon, as the committee that will decide its fate doesn’t meet again this year.