After more than two years of advocacy and legal action, Jaskirat Singh became the first Sikh to graduate from the US Marine Corps (USMC) while maintaining his Sikh articles of faith.
It was a proud moment for the Singh family as Private First Class (PFC) Jaskirat Singh graduated from USMC Recruit Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), San Diego.
The graduation was also a landmark event for thousands of Sikhs across the country as Singh completed the Recruit Training with a historic accommodation allowing him to maintain his Sikh articles of faith throughout.
READ: Sikh Marine wants to keep beard and turban without restrictions (September 28, 2021)
The journey to get here for wasn’t easy. It involved years of advocacy, legal works and lots of grit. Talking bout his journey, he says young Sikhs in America should believe in themselves.
“More Sikhs have shown you can have a turban and beard while serving the US in Uniform”
Back in November 2021, with assistance from legal counsel, Singh submitted a request for an accommodation to serve in the USMC with his articles of faith.
In February 2022, he was offered an incomplete and insufficient accommodation by the USMC–including a provision that would require him to sacrifice his turban and beard while at boot camp.
In April 2022, after significant back-and-forth regarding the accommodations offered to Singh and three additional clients, civil rights organization, the Sikh Coalition, Winston & Strawn, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and BakerHostetler filed a suit against the US government.
But in August 2022, a US District Court judge denied a preliminary injunction that would have allowed Singh and others to attend Recruit Training.
Singh along with his legal counsels appealed this decision with the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals in September. Three months later, the court ultimately granted a preliminary injunction to allow Singh to attend Recruit Training with his articles of faith.
Following the injunction, in May 2023, Singh shipped out to MCRD San Diego to begin Recruit Training. He has now graduated from Recruit Training and in the weeks ahead, PFC Singh will report to his assigned Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) school to continue his Marine Corps training.
Talking about his inspiring journey Singh said, “Recruit Training was, of course, extremely challenging, but that’s the point—it made me the Marine I am now, and I’m ready to continue my service. I was grateful that the full chain of command knew about and took my religious accommodation seriously.”
On whether he got any pushback from anyone regarding the accommodations and in his journey, He says, “Ultimately, I’m just grateful to the Marine Corps for granting me this opportunity, the advocates who helped me get here, and other Sikh Marines who have served as trailblazers—whether or not they were able to keep their articles of faith.”
Beaming at his graduation, Jaskirat Singh also had a piece of advice for other young Sikhs who may want to become Marines. “Over the past several years, more and more Sikhs have shown that you can have a turban and a beard while serving your country in uniform, whether that’s in the Marine Corps or other branches of the Armed Forces,” he says.
“My advice is to follow whatever career path you are called to—if you are motivated enough, and you have the support you need, you can achieve your goals.”