Reserve Spc. Harpal Singh , Spc. Kanwar Singh of the Massachusetts National Guard and Pvt. Arjan Singh Ghotra of the Virginia National Guard filed suit against the Army last month seeking a permanent exemption to appearance standards that would allow them to maintain their articles of faith.
They each received nearly identical memos dated April 8 that advise them of the Army's approval of their requests, with conditions. Like the waiver delivered in March to Capt. Simratpal Singh, the memo offers guidelines for wear of the soldiers' hair and turbans, states that the exemption applies only during the performance of "nonhazardous duties," and notes that it periodically will be up for review and could be voided at any time.
Such reviews, and the threat of immediate cancellation of the waiver, have led the trio's lawyers to "continue to pursue legal claims on behalf of each of the recently accommodated soldiers to ensure that the Army moves swiftly to establish uniform standards for the service of observant Sikhs and removes discriminatory monitoring and re-evaluation provisions," according to a Monday news release from the Sikh Coalition.
The Army has not commented on the case, citing the ongoing litigation. The coalition, along with the law firm McDermott Will & Emery and The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, represented both the enlisted soldiers and Capt. Singh in their recent complaints.
"After months of waiting, I'm ecstatic that I can finally serve both God and country," Ghotra said in a Becket Fund release.
Ghotra, a 17-year-old high school student in Virginia, has yet to attend any training. Kanawar Singh has yet to touch a weapon while in service, according to court filings.
Simratpal Singh's service is more extensive: The officer earned a Bronze Star Medal for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan. He served in accordance with appearance standards beginning with his admission to the U.S. Military Academy in 2006, but decided to pursue a waiver in 2015. Court filings in his case say he "succumbed under pressure" to follow the Army's standards, a decision he would come to regret.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.