Culminating a multi-year legal battle with the US Army, Captain Simratpal Singh has won the right to wear his beard and turban while serving in the US Army. Upon joining West Point in 2006, Singh — a lifelong Sikh — was dismayed to learn that the military was hostile to the idea of religious accommodation for his faith. NBC News reports that since 1981 when the US Army instituted stricter grooming standards, only three Sikh American officers have ever received religious accommodations for their articles of faith.
As a cadet, Singh filed repeatedly for a religious accommodation for his beard and turban, and was denied each time. Finally, Singh made the heartbreaking decision to shave his beard — an act Singh says he immediately regretted, but felt was necessary in order to continue his military service. Singh went on to become a highly decorated Army Ranger who distinguished himself on harrowing missions in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province helping to disarm IEDs, and in training exercises with the South Korean Army.
In 2015, Singh began work with The Sikh Coalition to once again file for his own religious accommodation from the Army to permit his articles of faith.