A US Army sergeant is believed to be the first Christian in the military to have been granted a religious exemption allowing him to grow out his hair.
Jacob DiPietro of the Florida Army Reserve's 489th Transportation Company was granted the exemption on July 25, the Daily Mail reports.
The head of Army personnel wrote in a memo, "In observance with your Christian faith, you may wear uncut hair in accordance with Army uniform and grooming standards provided in Army Regulation (AR) 670-1." The memo adds: "You may grow your hair in accordance with the standards for long hair set forth in AR 670-1." DiPietro observes the Christian Nazarite vow, found in the Book of Numbers of the Old Testament. It says that "no razor may be used on their head."
Prominent New Testament figures such as John the Baptist and Paul are known to have taken the Nazarite vow. The vow also prohibits the consumption of alcohol.
When DiPietro joined the military, he was not a Christian. He came to God after his pregnant wife left him. "I noticed that by praying, I found strength," said DiPietro. "By finding strength, I was able to keep fighting these personal battles of mine." DiPietro had been working to get his exemption for two years, with the Pentagon only initially approving the beard part of his request.
While he is considered the first Christian service member to be given the religious exemption, other service members from Sikh, Muslim, and Norse Pagan faiths had previously been granted a similar exemption.