In rare move, US Army OKs beard for Sikh soldier

The U.S. Army last week granted religious accommodation for a Sikh soldier who is now allowed to grow his beard and wrap his head in a turban.

“My Sikh faith and military service are two core parts of who I am," Capt. Simratpal Singh told "I am proud to serve my country as an Officer and I look forward to being able to continue serving without having to give up my religious beliefs."

Singh, 27, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point nearly 10 years ago. He was forced to adhere to the military’s facial-hair rule, and remembered shaving without looking into the mirror.

Since then, he served in Afghanistan where he led a platoon of engineers who cleared roadside bombs and was awarded a Bronze Star for his efforts, The New York Times reported.

The paper reported that the Army’s decision is temporary and officials will have to decide on whether the decision in Singh’s case will be permanent.

NPR reported in June that it is general Department of Defense police to prohibit facial hair and religious headgear. The report said the DOD makes exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Up until the early 1980s, the U.S. military allowed Sikh men to serve with bears and turbans, but the rule was changed.

“A true Sikh is supposed to stand out, so he can defend those who cannot defend themselves,” told The Times. “I see that very much in line with the Army values.”