Bill Would Lower Drinking Age to 19 for Soldiers

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: PFC Jake Covill is a 20-year-old Army Reservist. Like most soldiers, he views his unit like family. "Age is not a factor. Everybody is equal."

Age is only a factor when Jake can't follow his unit to the bar. "After you're done drilling a lot of guys go to the bar to get a drink and they'd love to have you, but I can't be there. I'm not of age."

Assembly Bill 451 would change that. It would lower the legal drinking age in Wisconsin to 19 for those in the military.

The state would need to receive a waiver from the federal government, or else they could lose 10% of their federal highway funds.

The common argument among supporters was if a 19 year old can go to war, they should be able to drink.

"Of the KIA's from Wisconsin, 6 of them have been under the legal drinking age," says Rep. Terry Musser (R-Black River Falls).

Rep. Musser read a letter from a 20 year who was ticketed for possession of alcohol. "This was the weekend after I had completed advanced weapons training and full knowledge, including top secret codes, of how to launch nuclear armed cruise missiles."

Kari Kinnard is the executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 interferes with how the brain develops and operates. This interference can change the course of a person's mental, mental, cognitive and social development," she testified.

Some lawmakers questioned whether 19 year olds in the military deserved to be lumped in with your average college freshman.

PFC Covill says boot camp makes you wiser than your years. "Everybody grew up so fast in those 9 weeks. The maturity is definitely there."

The committee is expected to decide whether to send the bill to the house for a vote in the next couple weeks.

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