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Sikh US soldier receives prestigious combat award

By Lalit K Jha
December 08, 2011 13:58 IST
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Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, the first turbaned United States Sikh soldier in the last 30 years, has received the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest combat award for his meritorious services in Afghanistan.

Kalsi, a doctor, received the medal for "exceptionally meritorious service as an emergency medicine physician" while deployed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2011, the Sikh Coalition said in a statement on Wednesday.

He was the first Sikh to be allowed to go on active duty with a turban, beard and unshorn hair in more than 20 years.

Working for the rights of Sikhs in the US, Sikh Coalition was instrumental in Kalsi joining the US Army after he was refused an entry on religious grounds.

Among other reasons for receiving the Bronze Star, an official recommendation from Major Kalsi's superiors cites his resuscitation back to life of two patients who were clinically dead on arrival, his "expert" emergency care of over 750 soldiers and nationals and coordination of five mass casualty exercises.

Major Kalsi had set up camp-wide Internet access for over 200 soldiers at Camp Dwyer in Helmand, Afghanistan where he was deployed.

After his service, he was promoted from Captain to Major.

"It continues to be a tremendous honour to serve my country," said Kalsi.

At present, US military policy forces Sikhs to remove their religiously-required turbans and facial hair in order to join the military.

Over the past two years, the Army granted Major Kalsi and two other Sikh soldiers individual accommodations, which allow them to maintain turbans and beards.

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