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Rediff.com  » News » Kalsi, Rattan honored at NY city council event

Kalsi, Rattan honored at NY city council event

May 14, 2010 21:52 IST
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn last week honored Captains Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi and Tejdeep Singh Rattan, the first turbaned officers in two decades to complete the US Army's basic training, at the City Hall.

"It is somewhat nightmarish to think of the coming days," Kalsi's wife Chinar said of the next three years when Kalsi will be on active duty and away from home most of the time.

Her family has no military background unlike Kalsi's, which boasts of four generations of military service. Kalsi wished his young son would become an American officer. "I am no different from any other officer, though I may wear a turban and have beard," he said.

Though Sikhs with turbans served in the US Army for many years, a 1984 order prohibited beards and turbans. "The council takes special pride in recognizing the men and women who serve in our country's armed forces, and Captains Rattan and Kalsi are no exception," Speaker Quinn said. "They exemplify how it is possible to serve our country without compromising religious custom. We are delighted to take part in this important moment."

Quinn led the event attended by council members Daniel Dromm, Mark Weprin, Mathieu Eugene, Robert Jackson, Gale Brewer, James Sanders, and representatives of the Sikh Coalition and other organizations. "I call upon our leaders in Washington," City Council Member Daniel Dromm said, "to change the policy permanently and allow all qualified Americans to fight to protect our bedrock principles of equality and freedom of religion."

"Today," said Sapreet Kaur, executive director, Sikh Coalition, "we celebrate that doors are opening for the Sikh American community and we look forward to the day when not only Captains Rattan and Kalsi, but all Sikhs can serve our country with their articles of faith," said Sapreet Kaur, executive director, Sikh Coalition.

Captain Rattan was recruited and commissioned by the US Army in 2006 as a part of the Health Professionals Scholarship Program. After completing his final year of dental school, he joined the US Army Officer Basic Course.

Image: Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi and Tejdeep Singh Rattan
George Joseph