This is a topic that was near and dear to my husband’s heart. As he is in the military, it comes up often during mobilizations for deployment. I drink very little, so I hadn’t given it much consideration until he was deploying himself. I think that military personnel under the age of 21 should be allowed to consume alcoholic beverages under supervision. We have two sons that joined the National Guard at the ages of 17years and 19 years old. The legal age to purchase and consume alcohol in this state is 21 years of age.
Our sons were pretty quickly deployed to Iraq. Granted, they didn’t drink at the time, but under the circumstances: I think that if their squads and platoons had offered them beer before going away to war, there should be no qualms about it. If they are able to go off and risk their safety or their lives, then there should not be a problem with having two beers with their buddies. Compared to college freshmen, there is a lot of supervision and control in a military environment. On campuses around the country, binge drinking is prevalent and sometimes problematic.
This is not to say that it doesn’t happen in the military but there is so much more structure to the lifestyles of soldiers, sailors, etc. College and high school campuses provide much more independence. Teens often sneak into their parents bars when their away and imbibe without supervision, and most often without parental consent. My husband entered military service in 1985 and he says that then it was the norm for the military to have two beers during lunch. It was being phased out, but the older soldiers held to the tradition.
There were quite a few Vietnam vets still in at that time. When he went to Germany, they would have beer tents set up after exercises and all of the soldiers would be allowed to drink their fill. During the nineties, the policy changed to the State’s legal age, based on the location of the particular Post or Base. Currently, the military is campaigning to deglamorize the abuse of alcohol. They have “Don’t Be That Guy” awareness posters, playing cards, and even a website; along with regularly required training sessions.
If anyone has an alcohol related incident, that soldier is counseled. If there is another incident, the soldier is then referred by the Commander to the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program (ASAP). Based on the length of time in the military, a younger soldier is allowed one misstep or mistake. More experienced soldiers and those with rank and responsibility aren’t given such leeway. For instance, a Driving under the Influence (DUI) charge is a career ender for a non-commissioned officer, but a lower enlisted soldier will be given a chance to rehabilitate.
There have been cases of parents here in this State having closed door parties for graduation and proms. Those parties caused a lot of controversy. The parents were there to supervise in most cases, but there were a couple of cases of no supervision. Those parents argued that as long as they were there to oversee what was going on, there shouldn’t have been such an outrage. Those that argued against it felt that they were being enablers. I can see both sides of the argument. I wouldn’t host such an event personally, but I won’t frown upon those parents who chose to do this for their children.
In Europe, it is common for teenagers to have a glass of wine with their dinner in a family setting. There doesn’t seem to be any of the stigmas of consumption of alcohol there. Given the supervision and the amount of reinforcement in the military, I believe that young people in uniformed services should be allowed to have limited consumption of alcohol under direct supervision. If they are old enough and eligible to serve our country, then there should be an exception to policy or a waiver of some sort.