Surinder Kaur and Ravsehaj Singh with a veteran
The American Sikh Council (ASC) led and participated in the American Legion Convention held at the Phoenix Convention Center attended by over 8,000 veterans from across the nation.
This is part of an ASC led ongoing national initiative called, ‘educate the educators’. Volunteers from Guru Nanak Dwara, Gurdwara Nishkam Sewa and others local Sikh Americans graciously stepped up to help at the exhibit make the five-day event a great success.
There were over 100 booths exhibiting various products and services with many non-profits, but mostly catering to the veterans.
This is the second time ASC has put up a Sikh exhibit at this particular convention. The ASC exhibit was focused on the hundreds of thousands of (Sikh) veterans who served in World War I and II. The exceptional history of Sikh American veterans is completely missing from the ‘war history in America’! ASC has worked for the last few years to change the current narrative and it is starting to make an impact on the national conscience, so that not just all veterans but the public at large is made aware of the phenomenal contributions made by the ‘turbaned Sikhs’ over the last 100+ years towards freedom, peace and liberty in the free world.
Veterans at the ASC exhibit
Satinderpal Singh, Surinder Kaur, Hargun Singh, Gurjot Singh, Ravsehaj Singh, Fateh Singh, Adi Singh, Harjit Singh a teacher, Pawitter Singh, Ramanjit Kaur, Rajinder Singh, Jasbir Singh, Rana Singh, Harjit Singh, Devinder Singh and Kavneet Singh interacted, discussed and disseminated literature to the veterans for five days. All the volunteers answered questions, while conversing on various issues from bullying to our history in America, while giving them multiple brochures about the, ‘Bullying of Sikh American Children’, ‘History of Sikh Americans’, ‘Sikhs and Scouts’, ’The Sikh Turban’, ‘Sustained Sikh Genocide 1984-1998’, ‘The Battle of Saragarhi’, ‘Sikhs in World Wars’. Additionally, several academic books about the Sikhs defending Europe and helping the Allies to win the two great World Wars were also displayed.
Satinderpal Singh with attendees
The direct face to face conversations with most of the veterans is an extremely effective way to educate them about the Sikh valor, our values, how they were centuries ahead, yet perfectly aligned with the US constitution. One of America’s founding fathers, Patrick Henry’s stated on March 23, 1775 at a Virginia convention, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” The founder of the Sikh Religion – Guru Nanak Sahib resoundingly stated the same in the late 1400s recorded by him in the sacred Sikh scripture the Guru Granth Sahib and lived his entire life by standing up against all kinds of tyranny.
Rajinder Singh and Hargun Singh with attendees
Some veterans at the convention stopped by at the booth to share their sorrow about the massacre in August 2012 at the Oak Creek Gurdwara in Wisconsin where six innocent Sikh Americans were shot and many injured. Others mentioned their positive interaction with Sikhs elsewhere. But most had sparing or no knowledge at all about the enormous Sikh participation in the many wars in the past 100 plus years. Sikhs have even participated and fought in the US Civil War of 1861-1865. Many were in awe of the scale of sacrifices made by Sikh soldiers to defend Europe, America and freedom, which came at an incredible cost of over 83,000 killed and over 109,000 wounded; all with their turbans intact.
Harjit Singh, Sonia Kaur, Rana Singh and Jasbir Singh with a visitor
The Sikh exhibit was the topic of many evening conversations through the course of the event.
American Sikh Council’s exhibit drew a lot of attention in the convention. Tim McConnell commented, “It is about time that Sikh Americans participated in the convention to change the misconceptions of Sikh Americans by many of us at this event. Thank you for being here with some fantastic literature to educate everyone!”
Some of the veterans happily took pictures to post on social media reaching thousands across the country!
Kavneet Singh with a Vietnam veteran from Colorado
Even though the overall event was a great success, ironically a Vietnam veteran from Colorado stopped by to say hello on Aug 27, the very first day of the convention. A pastor and a wonderful man who genuinely cares for others, requested the volunteers to get a turban tied. He was ecstatic and spent the entire day going about his business wearing a green turban proudly. At around 3:30 pm the same evening while walking outside the convention hall a ‘Caucasian’ man assaulted him by ripping his turban off, tearing it and stomping on it while cursing and abusing him. The shell-shocked veteran finally called the police and the preparator was arrested. These kinds of hate crimes must stop, but unfortunately, they continue to rear their ugly heads continuously, especially due to the very recent terrible casualties of our soldiers by the Taliban.
The American Sikh Council continues to educate the public about the Sikh American experience, because education must be sustained to bring about real understanding, mutual respect and peace among all citizens of this great land.