Video: Old enough to serve, be served?
updated 6/9/2005 2:20:33 PM ET 2005-06-09T18:20:33

Should military personal over the age of 19 be allowed to drink?  A group of Wisconsin legislators thinks so. The group wants to allow soldiers above the age of 19 from their state the right to consume alcohol, and are advocating Congress to allow them an exception to a federal highway statute that requires a drinking age of 21 in order to receive an estimated $50 million a year in highway aid.

MSNBC's Kristine Johnson interviewed Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pettis,  who shared his views on why the drinking age should be lowered for those who serving the United States of America. 

Below is an excerpt of the interview, to watch the video clip, click above.

Kristine Johnson:  Now, you said lowering the drinking age to 19 is the "least we can do for these defenders of freedom."  With all do respect, what about setting up scholarship funds or raising the pay or even providing financial support for their families.  Why focus on lowering the drinking age?

Mark Pettis:  Well, it's not only about drinking.  It's about showing our respect for their judgment.  We respect their judgment when it comes to weaponry, defending our country and fighting for freedoms around the world.  I think that these men and women of the age of 19 and even 20 deserve our respect when they make judgment calls entering a bar.

Johnson:  Have you had any kind of reaction to this story?  Is there sort of a need from these troops saying they want this law to change?

Pettis:  Well, I don't know if there is a need for it.  I feel that if they're mature enough to push a button on a cruise missile with a nuclear warhead then I think that we can trust their judgment when entering a bar.

Now we have zero tolerance in the state of Wisconsin for driving until the age of 21 so even if this law became in effect, they wouldn't be able to drive their automobile after they had an adult beverage.

Johnson:  Now there is a federal law standing in your way if the state does lower its drinking age.  You're at risk for losing federal highway sponsorship.  How do you anticipate getting over that obstacle?

Pettis:  We're asking Congress to give us a waiver for a couple of years to allow this to happen.  If Congress can withhold federal highway funds, I think Congress can release them also.

Johnson:  Do you think it's really fair to attach the right to drunk to whether or not someone is patriotic?

Pettis:   I'm not saying that but our Wisconsin legislature and government have strong supporters of the military.  They support our troops very, very well and it's the other legislators and Congress people we are asking to five use this waiver because just are Wisconsin legislator can't do this; we need to support of our whole Congress.

Johnson:  What has the response been so far?

Pettis:  People are very supportive of this.  There are young men and women that entered the military at age 17 or 18 and we compromised for the age of 19 to ensure the possibility that any of the military personal may be in high school.  

MSNBC Live with Amy Robach and Randy Meier can be seen weekdays from 9 a.m.-Noon.

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