air force: US Air Force permits Indian origin airman to wear Tilak while in uniform | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: For the first time, a United States Air Force personnel of Indian-origin has been given permission to wear a Tilak while on duty.
Darshan Shah, a US Air Force airman stationed at FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, has been allowed to wear a Tilak Chandlo while on duty as part of a religious waiver. On February 22 this year, Shah wore his Tilak while in uniform for the first time.
“My friends from Texas, California, New Jersey and New York are messaging me and my parents that they are very happy something like this happened in the Air Force,” said Shah, as reported in an article published on the website of the air force base .
“It’s something new. It’s something they’ve never heard of before or even thought was possible, but it happened,” he added.
Shah is also receiving plenty of support from his colleagues. “Wearing the Tilak Chandlo every day to work is amazing … 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,” said Shah.
“Not only am I wearing the uniform, which is one of my main identities, being a member of the Air Force, but I am also wearing my Tilak Chandlo,” Shah said, adding: “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.”
A two-year journey
Shah had been seeking a waiver allowing him to wear the Tilak Chandlo in uniform since attending Basic Military Training in June, 2020.
“I grew up simultaneously learning English and Gujarati,” said Shah, an aerospace medical technician assigned to the 90th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron. “When the teacher would ask me something, I would reply in Gujarati and mix up words here and there.”
Shah is originally from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “While in Minnesota, I went into the temple every Sunday to volunteer,” said Shah.
“My grandparents had a big influence on my religion,” said Shah. “They taught me a lot about religion, festivals and customs. I would definitely say they had a positive impact on me. Not only with my religion, but with my mother tongue, Gujarati.”
“I’ve actually been wearing the Tilak Chandlo before I joined the military,” said Shah. “Third grade is when I first started wearing it.”

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