A 23-year-old woman of Indian origin on Saturday became the first observant Sikh to graduate from the United States Military Academy, The New York Times reported.
Second Lieutenant Anmol Narang, a second-generation immigrant born and raised in Georgia, told the newspaper that her grandfather was in the Indian Army and that played a huge role in her decision. “It was always a big part of my life and something I was always interested in,” she said.
Narang said that she became inspired to serve in the military after visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. She applied to the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, while she was in her junior year of high school.
“I am excited and honoured to be fulfilling my dream of graduating from West Point,” Narang was quoted as saying by the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit organisation based in New York. “The confidence and support of my community back home in Georgia has been deeply meaningful to me, and I am humbled that in reaching this goal, I am showing other Sikh Americans that any career path is possible for anyone willing to rise to the challenge.”
Narang graduated from West Point with a degree in nuclear engineering. She is now hoping to pursue a career in air defence systems. She will first complete her Basic Officer Leadership Course in Oklahoma and then head to her first post in Okinawa in Japan in January, according to The Associated Press.
In 1987, the US Congress passed a law prohibiting Sikhs and other religious communities from keeping their articles of faith while serving in the military. Turbans and unshorn facial hair, which are articles of Sikh faith, were banned.
In 2016, however, a Sikh cadet named Simratpal Singh filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department for being made to cut his hair and trim his beard. He was eventually granted permission to wear his articles of faith while in service.
Singh is also Narang’s family friend. He told the AP that Narang had broken the barrier for any Sikh-American who wishes to serve in the military. “The broader acceptance of Sikh service members among all of the service branches, as well as in top tier leadership spaces like West Point, will continue to benefit not just the rights of religious minority individuals, but the strength and diversity of the US military,” he said.