Hindu Airman Darshan Shah of U.S. Air Force Gets Waiver to Wear Tilak While in Uniform
Senior Airman Darshan Shah, an Indian-American, has been recently posted at Warren Air Force, Wyoming, and granted a religious waiver on February 22nd, 2022 to wear the Tilak Chandlo – a red dot on the forehead – while on duty. He had been waiting for this approval for almost two years. He is an aerospace medical technician assigned to the 90th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron. During his Basic Military Training (BMT) in June 2020, he has applied for this waiver for the very first time, and now after a long wait, he was ecstatic to know it had finally been granted.
“Wearing the Tilak Chandlo every day to work is amazing, to say it in one word. People around my workplace are giving me handshakes, high-fives and congratulating me because they know how hard I’ve tried to get this religious accommodation approved.” Darshan Shah said in a press release.
Darshan Shah’s Background
When Shah was three years old, he moved to live with his grandparents in Gujarat, India where they continued to raise him into Hinduism until he has shifted back to the USA at the age of five. He has started wearing the tilak Chandlo when he was in third grade. Being a follower of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), he always wanted to wear Tilak Chandlo with his uniform, and finally, God has answered to his prayers.
Darshan Shah said, “Not only was I wearing the uniform, which is one of my identities, being a member of the Air Force, but I was also wearing my Tilak Chandlo. It’s who I am. Wearing it is special. It’s my way of getting through hardships and difficulties in life. It provides me guidance. It’s given me a load of great friends and an overall understanding of who I am in this world.”
After getting approval, Shah has received support from around the globe, his cousin has contacted him from Australia to show her excitement. At warren, it is the first religious accommodation and would also appear to be one of the first in the whole Air Force community. Shah is happy and grateful that he has been brought up in a country where people have all the freedom to accept their religion, both in and out of uniform.
Shah expressed, “We live in a country where we’re allowed to practice and have faith in what we want. That’s what makes this such a great country. We’re not prosecuted for what we follow or believe. If it wasn’t for the first amendment, I wouldn’t be able to do this at all. I wouldn’t be able to be who I am while being a military member or even a citizen.”
Shah would like to become a commissioned officer and serve as a doctor after getting his degree. He has planned to serve in the U.S. Air Force for at least 20 years. This approval news for Darshan Shah to follow his tradition and religious identity while in uniform is fantastic. His passion and pride in following his culture and religion is truly an inspiration for all of us.
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