Sikh Soldiers Want More Indian Americans in U.S. Army

Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi.

Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi.

By Indiawest

The United States should change its policy to allow more Indian Americans to join the military without compromising on their religious beliefs and practices, the only three Sikh soldiers in the U.S. Army say.

Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan and Corporal Simran Preet Singh Lamba are the only three Sikhs serving in the U.S. 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 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 colors and races can join the military so can Indians, so can Sardars, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims,” Kalsi, an emergency medicine doctor, told PTI here.
The first turbaned American 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.
He said diversity in the forces is key to make America stronger and a more beautiful country.
Lamba, who was recruited in 2010 for his special language skills in Hindi and Punjabi through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, said there is need for change in federal policy that will open the doors for not just Sikhs but Indian Americans to serve in the military.
“Sikhs are part of the country, they are Americans as everybody else here. We need support of everyone from the community and other Indians to change the overall policy,” he said, adding that once the Army opens its door, other branches of the military could also follow suit and recruit more immigrants from diverse backgrounds.
Kalsi said he is privileged to be able to serve in the U.S. Army and looks forward to a future when his children and those of other immigrants and nationalities would be able serve “freely and proudly” for the country.
“This is my favorite turban, my camouflage turban, I take great pride in it. We don’t take that lightly,” Kalsi said as he touches his turban with a visible sense of pride.
“When Sikhs can serve proudly in nations like India, UK and Canada, there is no reason why we cannot serve here. I look forward to a future when not only my children but everyone’s children can serve freely and proudly for the country.”
Rattan said Indian parents in the United States prefer that their children take up lucrative, flourishing and comfortable professions and are not inclined to send them to join the forces.
Rattan, who began serving as an Army dentist at Fort Drum in May 2010, says he has shared his experiences of serving in the Army with other Indian families so that they encourage their children to look at the military as a career option.
Rattan was appointed Detachment Commander of U.S. Army Dental Activity at Fort Drum in July 2010. He has also served in Afghanistan and received an Army Commendation Medal and a NATO Medal for his service.
“I would like my son to be able to get what he wants,” Rattan, who was accepted into the military after applying four times, said.
The three however add that it pains them to see people from their community and other minorities being made targets of hate crimes and stressed the need for spreading awareness among people about the cultures and histories of immigrants.
Kalsi added that support from the President, Congress and military is required to “push back against the hate in a constructive way. Allowing Sikhs into the military, by supporting women into the military, by supporting people and minorities of all color and religions in the military will make a stronger military and will make us a stronger community.”