3 more Sikhs granted permission to serve in US armed forces

The Pentagon has allowed three more Sikhs to serve in US armed forces while maintaining their articles of faith like keeping a beard and wearing a turban, in the fourth such approval in less than a month, bringing cheer to the Sikh community in the US.

The landmark decision, taken on Friday but made public only today, comes days after the soldiers filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defence (DoD) seeking to serve in the US armed forces without being forced to compromise with their articles of faith.

Two have been accommodated in the Army National Guard, and one in the US Army Reserve, a media release said.

Arjan Singh Ghotra, 17, has been accommodated to serve in the Virginia Army National Guard and will continue his service while attending George Mason University this year.

“I will proudly wear my articles of faith with my military uniform,” he said.

“I am excited and honoured to have the opportunity to serve my country as an observant Sikh in the Virginia National Guard,” Ghotra said.

Kanwar Singh has been accommodated with the Massachusetts Army National Guard, while Harpal Singh, a California telecommunications engineering specialist, has been accommodated to serve with the US Army Reserve through a programme available for non-US citizens with critical foreign language skills.

All three are scheduled to attend basic combat training with their respective units this May, according to the release.

On March 31, 28-year-old Sikh-American decorated combat veteran Captain Simratpal Singh became the first active duty Sikh soldier to receive approval to maintain his articles of faith while actively serving in the US Army.

“We commend the US Department of Defence for its decision to allow these soldiers to serve with their religious turbans and beards,” said Sikh Coalition legal director Harsimran Kaur.

Sikhs observe five articles of faith – Kesh (uncut hair), Kara (a steel bracelet), Kangha (a wooden comb), Kachera (cotton underwear) and Kirpan (steel sword).