New York, NY – Today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney honored U.S. Army Captains Tejdeep Singh Rattan and Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi at a gathering at City Hall. Captains Rattan and Kalsi are the first Sikh Americans in more than two decades to be accommodated by the U.S. Army to serve on active duty while keeping their beards, turbans, and other articles of their religious faith. Joining Quinn and Maloney at today’s event were Council Members Daniel Dromm, Mark Weprin, Mathieu Eugene, Robert Jackson, Gale Brewer, James Sanders, and representatives of the Sikh Coalition and other organizations.
Captain Rattan recently graduated from the U.S. Army Officer Course and Captain Kalsi will begin training later this summer. Defense Secretary Robert Gates granted accommodations to Rattan and Kalsi after appeals from Rep. Maloney and other members of the New York Congressional delegation.
“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,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “They exemplify how it’s possible to serve our country without compromising religious custom. We are delighted to take part in this important moment, one that is 25 years in the making. We join the Sikh community in celebrating this significant achievement.”
“Captains Rattan and Kalsi personify the bedrock American traditions of military service and religious freedom. It was an honor and a privilege to help them serve our country, while proudly bearing their articles of faith,” Maloney said. “No American should have to choose between their religion and their service to our nation. I will continue to work to ensure that all Sikh Americans are able to serve their country without forsaking the central tenets of their faith.”
“Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan has made not only Sikhs proud but all Americans. Captain Rattan, Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, and those who follow their path should not have to compromise their faith to serve their country. I call upon our leaders in Washington to change the policy permanently and allow all qualified Americans to fight to protect our bedrock principles of equality and freedom of religion,” said City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights)
“Today 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 of the Sikh Coalition. “We are thankful to Representative Maloney for her leadership on this issue and to Speaker Quinn and the City Council for so warmly celebrating this historical occasion with our community.”
Captain Rattan was recruited and commissioned by the U.S. Army in 2006 as a part of the Health Professionals Scholarship Program (HPSP). After completing his final year of dental school, he joined the U.S. Army Officer Basic Course.
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Maloney led a number of House and Senate colleagues in sending letters to Secretary Gates requesting that the accommodations be made for Captains Rattan and Kalsi and all other Sikh Americans who wish to serve to preserve their “articles of faith”—turban, long hair and beards. Secretary Gates, and then-Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, who reviewed and ultimately granted the accommodations, showed tremendous foresight in recognizing that our nation’s 21st century fighting force should incorporate all aspects of American society.