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Breaking the barriers: Gursharan Virk, first Air Force cadet granted permission to wear Sikh Turban in U.S. Military

Breaking the barriers: Gursharan Virk, first Air Force cadet granted permission to wear Sikh Turban in U.S. Military

Breaking the barriers: Gursharan Virk, first Air Force cadet granted permission to wear Sikh Turban in U.S. Military

Gursharan Singh Virk from Punjab, India, dreams of becoming a pilot one day, since childhood. Being a cadet at the University of Iowa's Air Force ROTC program gets him a step closer to his dream. Although he was worried as he might have to choose between his Sikh faith and his dream career but with help from UI’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 255, Virk became the first Sikh Air Force cadet in U.S. history allowed to wear the turban, beard, and bracelet that are sacred religious symbols after he petitioned the military branch asking that he be allowed to incorporate them into his military uniform.

For the military, uniformity among the ranks is seen as an essential part of discipline and battle readiness, so Virk had to apply for a religious exemption. He became the first Air Force Sikh cadet in U.S. history allowed to wear practice tenets by wearing his turban, beard and bracelet.

Although Sikhs served in U.S. Army in World War I and II, but uniform standards changed in the 80s. The Air Force and Army have since granted religious accommodations to Sikhs but the Marines do not grant the permission. Following this in april this year, a federal ruling denied a request by Sikhs Milaap Singh Chahal, Jaskirat Singh and Aekash Singh, to enter Marine boot camp without shaving their beards or meeting other grooming requirements on religious ground.

As per Virk one shouldn’t have to choose between what he wants to do for his career and his faith. He further added “I am so proud to be the first person in the country and to make this possible for everyone who will come after me. I had doubts about whether or not I was going to be able to do this. But I hope people don’t have those doubts anymore.”

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