Sikh American honours community's military past

PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Washington
May 06, 2004 06:35 PM IST

A chance encounter with a World War II veteran changed the life of a Sikh American high school student in the US state of Georgia.

A chance encounter with a World War II veteran changed the life of a Sikh American high school student in the US state of Georgia.

HT Image
HT Image

The veteran told Vicky Singh, now 21, that he was happy to see the boy wearing a turban. The man went on to say how he had served with a group of Sikhs in World War II and "how brave your people were".

We're now on WhatsApp. Click to join.

Taken by surprise Vicky, who was quite ignorant about his own Sikh heritage and culture, decided to dig into history and the Sikhs' participation in the world wars.

He soon grew from someone ignorant of Sikh history into an advocate for Sikhs wanting to serve in the American military. Vicky is now a Sikh activist, creator of a Sikh military website and a computer science student at Ohlone College.

Inspired by the conversation, Singh began researching, slowly collecting images, postcards and information about Sikhs in the military. He met other community members, like the veteran, who told him about their experiences.

When he turned 18, an American Army recruiter asked him to consider enlisting.

Vicky agreed to come to the office for a general education test. But when he arrived for his appointment, he found out he couldn't join unless he gave up the turban, long hair and beard required by his religion.

Very soon his family moved to California and he decided to turn his collection of Sikh military artefacts into a website to educate people about the history of Sikhs in the military.

Sikhs had been permitted to serve in the United States military with turbans, long hair and beards intact as late as 1986, when the United States stopped waiving uniform and grooming requirements for religious reasons.

According to the California-based Sacramento Bee, officials say a clean-shaven appearance is unifying and practical -- a gas-mask leak caused by a beard could be deadly, for instance. But Vicky said the restriction shows a lack of cultural understanding.

He has now turned to educate people, through his website,, about Sikh history and culture and to help sway public opinion in favour of religious exceptions, he said.

He believes Sikhs would like to join military service as is traditional among his community members. "Everyone has grandfathers or ancestors who were in the army," he says, according to a report in the Argus, a daily published from California.

Vicky also serves as a board member on the Wareguroo Network, a California student organisation, as the West Coast representative of global non-profit United Sikhs, and is also a member of the International Sikh organisation.

He is involved with his temple, Fremont Gurdwara, and helps organize weekend Sikh youth camps.

"Exciting news! Hindustan Times is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!
Get Latest India News along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, October 02, 2023
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals