November 10, 2010

More Sikhs!

I was looking for something for vets Day, and stumbled on this. Army gets 1st Sikh enlisted in 30 years - Army Times:

By Susanne M. Schafer - The Associated Press

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — The first Sikh to become an enlisted U.S. soldier in nearly three decades said Wednesday he's eager to move on to training as a combat medic and defend his new homeland on the battlefield.

"When the bullets begin flying, it doesn't concern anyone what religion you are. I bleed the same color," Spc. Simran Lamba, 26, said after his graduation ceremony from basic combat training.

Sikhism, a 500-year-old religion founded in India, requires its male followers to wear a turban and beard and keep their hair uncut. Army policies since 1984 had effectively prevented Sikhs from enlisting by barring those items. But Lamba was granted a rare exception because he has skills the Army wants — the Indian languages Hindi and Punjabi.

Before him, two Sikhs joined the Army as medical officers earlier this year. But Lamba is the first enlisted man since the policy barring religious articles of clothing.

Lamba said his black turban, full beard, unshorn hair and religious beliefs posed no problems during his 10 weeks of training.

"I am proud to be a Sikh, I'm proud to be a U.S. citizen, and proud to be a U.S. Army soldier," he said.

During training, he wore a camouflage turban under his Kevlar helmet. He used petroleum jelly to get a tight grip between his beard and gas mask, and was able to keep his hair clean under all conditions, meeting all the military's concerns about training and appearance.

And besides, the Sikhs were founded as a warrior group who were meant to fight against injustice and inequality Lamba said, so adopting Army values were an easy fit for him.

"The Sikhs are warriors in Indian culture. Once our soldiers heard that, they were all for him," said Lamba's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Bryan Hernandez....
Posted by John Weidner at November 10, 2010 6:51 PM
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