Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, the city council and the Stevens Institute of Technology all came together to issue a proclamation for Major Kamal Singh Kalsi, a former city resident who is the first known Sikh solider to get a religious exemption from the U.S. Army.
Kalsi was recognized for his military achievements, which include a Bronze Star, by Zimmer and various other city officials at last night’s council meeting.
A doctor of osteopathic medicine, Kalsi is working with the Pentagon in hopes of changing the armed services policy that does not allow Sikhs to enlist.
Zimmer began the remarks, praising Kalsi not just for his service, but for his continued crusade to allow any Sikh to have the opportunity to serve.
Stevens Institute of Technology President Nariman Farvardin congratulated Kalsi on his accomplishments, something the school is particularly proud of since the military veteran is an alumnus.
Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla, Hoboken’s first Sikh councilman and a childhood friend of Kalsi, thanked the mayor and other members of the council for recognizing what Kalsi is trying to do.
Kalsi began by stating he “always felt a very deep connection to Hoboken” and that “New Jersey is always home” before detailing how he was accepted by his fellow soldiers during some of the most trying times of war.
“We took care of plenty of combat causalities, many of which were injured by gunshot wounds, IED blasts … not a single time, there wasn’t a single moment where a soldier came to me and said ‘don’t take care of me because you’ve got a turban and a beard,'” explained Kalsi.
“Not a single solider ever said ‘don’t take care of me because of the faith you practice.’ Because the boots on the ground get it, right? They don’t care. They don’t care what I look like, they just want to know that I’m gonna do a damn good job of patching them up.”
After the ceremony, Kalsi spoke to Hudson County View about how his unique story came to be.
Kalsi added the The Sikh Coalition based out of New York City have been a great help in lobbying the Pentagon and members of Congress, which has resulted in over 100 U.S. Representatives signing a letter sent to the U.S. Secretary of Defense urging them to change the current policy against Sikhs.
27 retired U.S. Generals have followed suit and penned a similar letter, according to Kalsi.
In a further show of the city council’s support of Kalsi, they unanimously approved a resolution in “support to the national campaign to allow Sikhs to serve in the United States Army.” The measure was sponsored by Bhalla and 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo.
A spokesman for the U.S. Army could not be immediately reached this morning.