South Carolina Debates Lowering Drinking Age For Military Personnel

This story was written by Carli Rasch, The Daily Gamecock
A South Carolina representative is attempting to pass a bill to decrease the drinking age for people in the military.

The drinking age in South Carolina for all residents is 21; it changed from 18 to 21 in 1984 to assimilate with federal law. If this bill is approved, it will reduce the age to 18 for people enrolled in the military.

Fletcher Smith, a state representative and an attorney from Greenville, said he'll be introducing the legislation to the South Carolina General Assembly. He said he hopes it will soon be approved.

Smith said he believes this bill is important because military personnel are willing to serve their country in a time of war, but they are treated like children when they return home.

"If you can have a shot on the battlefield, you should be able to return home and have a shot at a bar as well," Smith said.

If representatives approve this bill, service members would be required to show bartenders or store clerks their military identifications.

Rep. Grady Brown, D-Bishopville, who served six years in the Air National Guard, said he supports the legislation and thinks that people who are at the right age to elect officials and serve on a jury should be able to buy alcohol.

"I don't know if it will be approved, it's just a personal feeling and I support it," Brown said.

Miranda Cross, a third-year accounting student at the University of South Carolina, said she supports the legislation as well.

"If they are old enough to make the decision to join, then they should at least be able to buy a drink," Cross said.

Christine Moon, who served seven years active duty in the military and is currently in the ROTC at USC, said she finds it important to give the people in the military this privilege.

"If these kids are old enough to fight for our country, then they are old enough to drink," said Moon, an international studies student.

At places like Fort Jackson, underage drinking is simply not allowed. According to Patrick Jones, the deputy public affairs officer at Fort Jackson, said they must abide by the laws of South Carolina and await whatever decision the state makes.

Andrew Williams, a fourth-year real estate and finance student, said he thinks changing the drinking age to 18 for people in the military is OK, but only if they are drinking wine or beer, not hard alcohol.

"It is important that these people get treated like adults and are able to have a beer every now and then, but when you start getting into hard alcohol, it's a different story," Williams said.

An issue the state will also have to consider is losing up to 10 percent in federal highway funds if this bill is approved. South Carolina representatives will have to think about this and other factors when making their decision.
© 2008 The Daily Gamecock via U-WIRE