This June 13, 2020, an Indian-American woman, Second Lieutenant (2LT) Anmol Narang will become the first observant Sikh and first observant Sikh woman to graduate from United States Military Academy West Point.
President Trump was scheduled to give the commencement address to the Class of 2020.
A second-generation immigrant born and raised in Roswell, Georgia, 2LT Narang was influenced early in life to join the military by her ancestral history, according to a press release from the Sikh Coalition, a U.S.-based advocacy organization.
Narang’s maternal grandfather served in the Indian Army. She began her application for West Point the afternoon after her family visited Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu, Hawai’i.
She attended one year of undergraduate study at the Georgia Institute of Technology before transferring to West Point, where she studied nuclear engineering with the objective of joining the air defense systems in the U.S. armed forces.
Second Lt. Narang said she was excited and honored to fulfill her dream of graduating from West Point. “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 is quoted saying in the press release.
She will complete her Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sill in Lawton, OK., following which she will head to her first posting in Okinawa, Japan in January of 2021.
In 1987, Congress passed a law that prohibited Sikhs and several other religious communities from maintaining their articles of faith while in the military.
The Sikh Coalition has led a campaign, in partnership with other civil rights organizations, to get equality of opportunity for all who observed the tenets of their religion by wearing a turban for example.
“While 2LT Narang required no accommodation for her articles of faith, her exemplary service to date underscores how diversity and pluralism remain core strengths of the U.S. military and the country as a whole,” the Sikh Coalition said.
“The broader acceptance of Sikh servicemembers 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 U.S. military,” said U.S. Army Captain (CPT) Simratpal Singh, a family friend of 2LT Narang and a former Sikh Coalition client, according to the press release.
Captain Singh’s 2016 suit over his own right to maintain his articles of faith in uniform spurred a critical change in the Army’s accommodations policy in 2017, which streamlined the accommodations process for Sikh soldiers and ensured that accommodations would stay with them throughout their career, the Sikh Coalition noted.
Finally, in 2020, after granting a series of individual accommodations to Sikh airmen throughout the year prior, the U.S. Air Force implemented a similarly updated policy. Since the Army and the Air Force changed their policies, there are at least 60 observant Sikhs serving in those two branches of the military, the Sikh Coalition said.