As a Sikh American Woman, I am Proud to Serve My County
WASHINGTON DC (Raj Gogna)Geena Kaur serves as a Second Class Petty Officer in the United States Navy. In today’s politically charged and increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to be open to the beliefs and cultures of those around you. This country was built on the strong foundation of religious freedom, and it’s one of the rights we hold dearest. As a United States citizen and a proud Sikh American, one of the greatest joys of my life thus far has been having the opportunity to serve the country I love. In my time serving as an Enlisted Sailor in the United States Navy, I’ve had the chance to not only defend my country but to fulfill a promise I made to honor the legacy of my father.
Spending my earliest years growing up in India, I was exposed to prejudice and injustice at an extraordinarily young age. My father was arrested and brutally tortured during the Sikh Genocide of 1984, forcing my mother to flee to the United States with me, her three-year-old daughter, in tow. This must have been a harrowing experience, but I am eternally grateful for her swift actions in getting us safely to America, the land of the free. Upon arrival to the United States, we were not only reunited with my father but we were given a tremendous opportunity to live a life of safety and countless blessings to excel far past we ever could have in our homeland.
I have always felt indebted to this country for sheltering my family in our time of need, and what better way to repay that debt than by serving in our military? My father always stated that he would give his life for those he loved and for the well-being and protection of his people. I hold these words close to my heart as they resonate very deeply with my passion to serve. This country is my home, it’s the land that I love, and I am honored to be given the opportunity to wear the cloth of this great nation.
My family’s decision to bring me to the United States made my dream of upholding my father’s legacy by serving in the military a much more plausible reality. Whereas Reuters reports that women make up only 2.5% of the Indian Armed Forces, women comprise 15.5% of active-duty personnel in the U.S. military according to the Department of Defense’s 2015 Demographics Profile Of The Military Community and I’m proud to be one of them.
This speaks to another core tenet of my faith, Sikhism, that aligns beautifully with the American values I hold so dear – gender equality. Pioneering Sikh leaders worked tirelessly to reform and redefine the status of women in society. Today, Sikh women engage in the same religious, cultural, political and secular activities as men – including serving in the armed forces.
Growing up in the United States, it became apparent to me that many Americans know very little about their Sikh American neighbors, which is why I am thrilled to be a part of a new, national effort to help inform Americans about Sikh Americans called We Are Sikhs.