New Congressional effort launched to enlist Sikhs in US Army
Washington: A top American lawmaker has launched a fresh effort to enlist Sikhs in the US Army so that they can serve the force while abiding by their faith.
"Throughout the world, and now in the US Army, Sikh soldiers are clearly able to maintain their religious commitments while serving capably and honourably," said a letter addressed to the US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel by Congressman Joe Crowley.
"We respectfully request that the US Armed Forces modernise their appearance regulations so that patriotic Sikh Americans can serve the country they love while abiding by their articles of faith," said Crowley.
"The current Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army is a turbaned and bearded Sikh, even though Sikhs constitute less than two percent of India`s population," the letter said.
The letter is being circulated in the Congress for the lawmakers to sign it.
There are currently three Sikh Americans serving in the Army - winning awards for their service and performing admirably overseas - including in Afghanistan.
The three Sikh soldiers currently serving in the US Army, the letter said, has brought laurel to the country.
Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi earned a Bronze Star Medal for his service in Afghanistan, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan earned a NATO Medal for his service in Afghanistan; and Specialist Simran Preet Singh Lamba successfully graduated from the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program.
"Given the achievements of these soldiers and their demonstrated ability to comply with operational requirements while practising their faith, we believe it is time for our military to make inclusion of practising Sikh Americans the rule, not the exception," it urged Hagel.
The letter added that devout Sikhs have served in the US Army since World War I, and they are presumptively permitted to serve in the armed forces of Canada, India, and the United Kingdom, among others.
Sikhs has had a long tradition of service in the US military - serving since World War I. That changed in the 1980s when the military enacted a dress code that essentially prevented future Sikhs from signing up.
Now, because of their beards and unshorn hair, they are not permitted to serve without special permission from the military.
Crowley said if Sikh Americans are otherwise qualified, the presumption should be that they are able to serve in the United States military.
They are already ably serving in the military in countries like Canada, the UK and India, and it`s time for them to be able to serve here as well, he argued.
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