New York, US: The US should change its policy to allow more Sikh American to join the military without compromising on their religious beliefs and practices, the only three Sikh soldiers in the US army say. Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan and Corporal Simran Preet Singh Lamba are the only three Sikhs serving in the US army currently.
Having shattered stereotypes, the three have won awards and commendations for their service, including postings in Afghanistan.
They now want to see a change in the federal policy that allows not just Sikhs but other Indian-Americans to join the military and serve without having to compromise on their religious beliefs and practices.
“It is just a matter of time. This is an issue of diversity. If people of all colours and races can join the military so can Indians, be it Sikhs, Hindus or Muslims,” said Kalsi, a doctor.
The first turbaned US Sikh soldier in over 30 years, Kalsi received the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest combat award for his meritorious services in Afghanistan in 2011.
“We are all in this together. Diversity is a strategic imperative. If we want to make this a stronger and a more beautiful country, we have to commit to diversity and we need a military that looks like the people it protects,” he said.
Lamba, who was recruited in 2010 for his special language skills in Hindi and Punjabi through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest programme, shared a similar view.
“Sikhs are a part of the country. They, too, are Americans like everybody else here. We need the support of everyone from the community and other Indians to change the policy,” he said, adding he is privileged to be serving in the US army.
Rattan, who was appointed Detachment Commander of the US Army Dental Activity at Fort Drum in July 2010, said Indian parents in the US were not inclined towards sending their children to join the forces. He said they wanted their children to opt for lucrative and comfortable professions.
He said he had shared his experience of serving in the army with other Indian families so that they encourage their children to look at the military as a career option.
He has also served in Afghanistan and received an Army Commendation Medal and a NATO Medal for his service.
“If you keep on pushing the little brick in the wall, it will drop. With perseverance, the mental mindset will change,” he said.
Rattan was accepted in the military service after having applied four times.