Oh I don’t know, perhaps it is just a little bit of jealousy. I can remember in 2003 Iraq when they told us Marines to grow a mustache if we could and I just couldn’t pull it off. Despite the fact that I was 22, my mustache still looked like that 12-year-old kid in junior high who refused to shave his 6 mustache hairs on each side so everyone knew he hit puberty. I have a small beard now, thank goodness puberty finally hit in my late 20’s. The Army Captain you see above is a decorated combat veteran who has been given an exemption to maintain his beard and wear his turban in keeping with his Sikh faith despite the fact that it is direct conflict with Army standards. As a result, the military and veteran community has been set ablaze with conversation about whether this was appropriate or not. Many are die-hard against it, some say it’s perfectly fine, but if I am honest the majority seems to be somewhere in the middle on this issue and I think it has more to do with the man himself than the policy. So I thought I’d weigh in and try to give words to those feeling this sentiment, of cool beard bro, cool guy, but if I am honest I don’t like it.
The Bearded Conundrum
The funny thing about this guy’s beard and the fact that it flies in the face of typical military regulation is that if he were deployed to Afghanistan, everyone would just think he is a special operator. Thanks to local Afghan customs, our special forces guys have been the envy of most every other veteran as they were encouraged to grow the special operator beard. And to be honest, we all thank it looks pretty dang awesome. Granted, most of the military wasn’t allowed to do so, but trust me when I say we as Veterans have more than made up for our beard envy when we separated and the tactical beard became a thing.
So clearly this guy’s beard has little effect on his ability to serve in combat and if anything, that and the turban makes him look all the more aggressive. Honestly, I’d take a turban any day over those army berets that look like they just ran out of Viagra. The turban looks cool, I dig it and the beard makes this Captain the ultimate tacti-cool guy in the entire military. The Canadian Defense Minister is actually a Sikh who wears the same getup ,and to be honest, it makes Canada look like a bad son of gun compared our typical Sec Def old man in a suit. No matter what many vets or current military will tell you, most of the men in the military are a little jealous of this guy because he won the ultimate no-shave chit.
Apart from the getup, this guy seems like the real deal and the kind of person you want with you in combat. The guy is actually a West Point grad who was devastated when found out he had to shave his beard upon acceptance, but he did it anyway. He then went on to serve for 10 years adhering to the typical grooming standards while picking up a Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan. To me, that is highly respectable on multiple levels. First, that he was willing to sacrifice his tradition for service. Trust me when I say it is quite common for your military men to compromise their morality on a regular basis, but that is mostly while on leave for the weekend and after the consumption of a beverage or two, or many.
But to put aside a deeply held religious belief so you can serve is on an entirely different playing field. As a result, there is a part of me that hates he was ever asked to do so. Sikhs are pretty honorable people with a noble tradition of fighting the bad guys. Not to mention they have every reason to be pissed for getting confused with Muslims all these years. I respect this Army Captain, I respect the Sikh community, and you won’t hear me raising too much of a fuss that this particular man gets to wear his beard and turban with honor. But I’d be lying if I told you I liked it.
I’m a Grumpy Old Man and I Don’t Like It
The aforementioned praise of this man has nothing to do with political correctness as that honestly has little to no place in the military. Rather, it really is just this sentiment of cool beard, decorated combat vet, why not you seem like a good guy. But with myself, there will always be a part of me and many veterans that we just don’t like about it. And it actually bothers me that proponents for this freedom are treating all opposition to it like we are religious or racial bigots when it honestly has nothing to do with that.
Our military experience began with being stripped of every individuality and being built up to become one cohesive fighting unit. There is something inspiring about the snap and pop of a homogenous looking crew of men that screams military discipline. So as much as I like this guy and realize the beard is irrelevant in combat, it just kind of grinds my gears a bit. But I think worse, is my fear for what comes next. When the Rastafarian faithful start coming out of the woodworks in light of this ruling I’m going to throw up and then cry. If there is one thing we have come to learn and the rolling progressive train is that it never stops at the station at which you would have hoped. More is always on the way. This is my baby-faced, can’t grow facial hair, I don’t like it face.
Yes, my hands are in my pockets, get over it. Bottom line, we need men like Captain Simratpal Singh in the United States Military, but if this gets out of control then we don’t need this one man that bad. I respect his 10 years of honorable service and all the more so because he actually adhered to Army regulation throughout much of his service. But perhaps it is envy, perhaps it is because I am a grumpy old man who doesn’t like change, or perhaps it is because I don’t like the idea of allowing an exception to military discipline and standards, but I just don’t like it. Cool beard, cool guy, I can live with it, but I don’t like it. Just one grunt’s opinion.
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