Khalsa Sikh service in the United States military began in World War One, in the days before Indians, being "non-white" could become legal citizens of this country. Observant Sikhs served in the U.S. military during that war, World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other less famous conflicts.
That pattern came to end in 1984, when the U.S. military removed its religious exemption on its ban on facial hair. For the most of my lifetime, American Sikhs have either had to compromise their religious practice or avoid military service.
I had no idea about this until my dad sent a link to an article celebrating the Army's recent accommodation of Tejdeep Singh Rattan. Capt. Rattan has been allowed to keep his beard and turban during his service. At least one other Sikh is currently cleared to do likewise. Hopefully, many more will follow.
Capt. Rattan at officer school graduation
I am particularly encouraged by this news for two reasons:
1) The murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi and other hate crimes against Sikhs after 9/11 show that prejudice against bearded people matters. Having bearded Sikhs in the U.S. military strengthens our country by showing that we are capable of unity in diversity.
2) If the United States army can accommodate Sikhs again 26 years after eliminating their exemption, it's possible that BYU will also accommodate Sikhs again. Perhaps it would help if someone (who is not me) would send Stephen Baker, Jonathan Kau, Vernon Heperi, and/or Jan Sharman copies of articles about Tejdeep Singh Rattan?
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