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Sikhs participate in Memorial Day parade
Sikh American community members of Chicago participated in the Memorial Day Parade on May 25 with a float, flags, posters, banners and a walking unit to honor and memorialize Sikh’s Contributions in World Wars. The banners featured photos and quotations which highlight the contributions of Sikhs to the success of the Allied Troops during World War I and II. This was the second year that Sikhs have participated in this annual parade.
Sikh Soldiers who gallantly fought and sacrificed their lives for the success of the Allies in World Wars I & II were part of British-India Army bravely fighting for the allies in France, Belgium, Italy, Israel and many other battle fronts. In the two world wars, 83,005 Sikh soldiers died and 109,045 were wounded while fighting for the Allied forces.
“We must create awareness about our Sikh identity which is usually mistaken due to our appearance with beards and turbans, which are mandated requirements for an observant Sikhs. We also need to educate our fellow Americans about the sacrifices made by the turban wearing Sikh soldiers in the World Wars,” said Sarwan Singh Raju the coordinator of the Sikh contingent’s participation in the parade.
Sikh community members were joined by a uniformed Sikh soldier Sergeant Gurpreet Singh Dipak of Canadian Army.
Rajinder Singh Mago who marched with Sergeant Gurpreet Singh Dipak said,” Sikhs have a strong military heritage, and due to their core value systems of upholding social justice and human equality are most American of the Americans. It would be ironic not to let them serve their country in uniform due to their beards and turban.”
The two hour long parade organized by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events stepped off at noon and proceeded south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street. Nearly two hundred contingents in the parade included area high school Marching Bands, Drum and Bugle Corps, as well as many Veterans’ groups, 6,000 JROTC students, and the military with light vehicles and equipment.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency lead this year’s Memorial Day Parade as its Grand Marshal and also participated in the Wreath Laying Ceremony preceding the parade at 11am at the Eternal Flame on Daley Plaza.
In addition to honoring all men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend their country, so that we could be free and safe, this year’s parade was dedicated to soldiers who fought and died in the Iraq War, which started in March 2003 and ended in December 2011.
The Chicago parade started in 1870, and is considered one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the nation.