RANBIR KAUR - FIRST SIKH GIRL TO JOIN US ARMY
Ranbir Kaur was the first Sikh girl to join the California National Guard, which she did when she was only 17 years old. Normally 18 years of age is the minimum allowed, but with her parent's permission she enrolled at 17, two days after her birthday. Now 21 Ranbir Kaur made headlines in 2003 after becoming the first Sikh girl to join the estimated 200,000 women serving in the branches of the US military who are the fist women ever to be playing an essential part in the battlefields of Iran and Afganistan.
Born in Nijjran village of Jalandhar district, the young warrior reached the US as a seven year old after her father Mahan Singh, a Jat Sikh who now grows grapes in California's San Joaquin Valley, hoping for a brighter financial future for his family managed to secured a US green card in 1990.
Brought up in the very isolated town of Earlimart, California her brush with military uniforms dates back to 2001 when she was a freshman (9th grader) in a high school 8 miles away at Delano where she has said, "I would see army, marines, air force and the navy standing outside the career centre of the school distributing fliers to students. I thought the uniform was awesome…"
The $ 3,000 bonus she got for enlisting was was helpful and the help with her college education, but, she told the 'The Sacramento Bee' (the newspaper in Sacremento), "It's lead to a lot more opportunities in life." She worked as a clerk in a doctor's office and studied at Bakersfield College while she waited to be deployed to Iraq.
At first, she faced the ire of local white supremacists, who posted spam e-mails, suggesting that she had only 'signed up' in an attempt to gain citizenship easily. They hadn't even bothered to find out that she had already become a US citizen. The young girl set about proving her detractors wrong through her hard training.
During the 2005 Katrina hurricane which devastated the US Gulf Coast and New Orleans, the devout Sikh Kaur was instrumental in recovering the Guru Granth Sahib after the New Orleans gurudwara was submerged.
The organisation, United Sikhs, had sought her assistance and Ranbir got everybody moving after she announced that the living Guru of the Sikhs was under water. Against a background of looting and random gunfire, US Air Force rescue experts David Cruz and Tom Bausmas were able to rescue the scriptures in an operation that lasted 22 hours.
After serving in Afganistan Ranbir was reassigned to Iran were last year she was injured. She was returned to the States for a four week recovery period. She has returned to complete her tour of duty with her unit in Iran.