"In observance with your Christian faith, you may wear uncut hair in accordance with Army uniform and grooming standards provided in Army Regulation (AR) 670-1," a memo to Sgt. Jacob DiPietro from Lt. Gen. Gary M. Brito, the head of Army personnel, stated on July 25.
"You may grow your hair in accordance with the standards for long hair set forth in AR 670-1."
DiPietro, a cargo specialist with the Florida Army Reserve's 489th Transportation Company, first applied for the religious exemption in November 2019, according to Task & Purpose. He explained that the Bible says that while someone is observing the Nazarite vow, "no razor may be used on their head."
The request came after policy changes in 2017 that allow a soldier’s brigade-level commander to approve a request to receive religious exemptions to grow out their hair.
He explained that he had gone through a dark time in 2017 after returning from Kuwait, and had married his longtime girlfriend, who became pregnant. But she soon left him, and he began embracing his Christian faith.
"I noticed that by praying, I found strength," he explained. "By finding strength, I was able to keep fighting these personal battles of mine."
DiPietro is one of the first Christian service members to receive such an exemption, while other military branches have issued exemptions to adherents of faiths such as Sikhism and Islam, Task & Purposes reported.
DiPietro said he was "sincerely" thankful for everyone who helped him and counseled him "throughout this process." But he added that the difficulty he faced in getting the exemption, and the harassment he experienced from other soldiers over it, has encouraged him to leave the service at the end of his contract next year.
"But there are things that I see and I don’t like … like the way soldiers are treated when they seek an exception to policy while following Army regulation," he said. "If a soldier is following the rules as set by the Army, they should absolutely be free from harassment discrimination. I feel like there’s still a culture that is, truthfully, fearful and hating towards that which is different."