14 Sikh high schoolers get waivers to enter US army basic with beard, turban

Practicing Sikhs serving in the Army are nothing new, but Manav Singh Sodhi is the first high school student to receive a religious accommodation so he can enlist in the Army as a Sikh, says Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA)

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Army Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, president of Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA), and Manav Sodhi, a high school student who received a religious accommodation from the Army to wear the Sikh turban and beard. — Photo: Matt Thorn/Military.com
By Matthew Cox | MILITARY.COM | US |

Following graduation this June, Manav Sodhi will help lead a new wave of Sikh soldiers enlisting in the U.S. Army who will be allowed to wear the traditional turban and beard in Basic Combat Training.

Sodhi, who is currently attending Kings Park High School in New York, was recently granted a religious accommodation by the Army, according to the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA).

“I wanted to join the Army ever since I was a kid,” Sodhi said in a recent SAVA news release. “My great grandfather served in the Army, and I wanted to follow his footsteps.”

Practicing Sikhs serving in the Army are nothing new, but SAVA’s release states that Sodhi is the first high school student to receive a religious accommodation so he can enlist in the Army as a Sikh.

He is at least among the first. There are currently 60 religious accommodations that have been granted to Sikhs entering the service, according to Hank Minitrez, a spokesman for the Army. Fourteen of those were granted as pre-accession waivers to high school students like Sodhi.

Army Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, who is the president of the non-profit advocacy group that promotes Sikhism and military service, was surprised to learn there are 13 other high school students who will be allowed to enlist in the Army and openly serve as Sikhs.

This is a new milestone, he said.

“It shows progress,” Kalsi told Military.com, adding that he has been involved in this effort since he was granted the first such accommodation in 2009. “I was the first to get the accommodation for turban and beard way back in the day.”

 

Read full story, ’14 Sikh High Schoolers Get Waivers to Enter Army Basic With Beard, Turban’, (Military.com, 2 May 2019), here.

 

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