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Letter to Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense - Urging U.S. Military to End Presumptive Ban on Sikh Articles of Faith

Dear Secretary Hagel:

We respectfully request that the U.S. Armed Forces modernize their appearance regulations so that patriotic Sikh Americans can serve the country they love while abiding by their articles of faith.

As you know, three devout Sikh Americans have been granted individualized accommodations to serve in the U.S. Army. These patriotic soldiers wear turbans and maintain beards in a neat and conservative manner, both in accordance with operational requirements and their Sikh religious beliefs. They are also able to wear protective equipment, including helmets and gas masks, in conformity with safety requirements.

These Sikh soldiers have given their all in service of their country. Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi earned a Bronze Star Medal for his service in Afghanistan, which included treating multiple combat injuries and reviving two clinically dead patients back to life; Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan earned a NATO Medal for his service in Afghanistan; and Corporal Simran Preet Singh Lamba successfully graduated from the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program for his proficiency in Punjabi and Hindi.

Given the achievements of these soldiers and their demonstrated ability to comply with operational requirements while practicing their faith, we believe it is time for our military to make inclusion of practicing Sikh Americans the rule, not the exception.

Devout Sikhs have served in the U.S. Army since World War I, and they are presumptively permitted to serve in the armed forces of Canada, India, and the United Kingdom, among others. Notably, the current Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army is a turbaned and bearded Sikh, even though Sikhs constitute less than two percent of India's population. Throughout the world, and now in the U.S. Army, Sikh soldiers are clearly able to maintain their religious commitments while serving capably and honorably.

We look forward to working with you to end the presumptive ban on Sikh Americans in the U.S. military and extend opportunity to Sikh Americans who wish to serve and defend our nation.

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