A Nevada National Guardsman may have his Soldiers converting to his religion after he was given the green light to sport a longer beard in reflection of his Norse pagan faith.
3665th Ordnance Company Acting First Sergeant Benjamin Hopper has been given religious accommodation to grow a neatly-kept beard while serving in Afghanistan, in light of his Norse polytheistic beliefs.
As the head NCO in his company, Hopper will no doubt be a high-profile figure, and will have to keep his facial hair in check.
A 34-year-old Alabama native, Hopper has been a practicing Norse pagan for around twenty years and insists his beliefs are aligned with the Army Warrior ethos.
In Norse paganism, the beard is seen as sacred and a rite of passage among masculine men.
“My personal faith is deeply tied to the modern warrior lifestyle that I have been able to live during my military career,” Hopper told the Stars and Stripes. “In short, it is honoring the pillars of heathenism, our ancestors and ancient gods and way of life.”
Hopper was cleared through help from the Chaplain Corps, but still gets questions from time to time.
“Regardless of why, the wear of a beard while in uniform does tend to raise a number of questions,” Hopper said. “I’ve been brought before some fairly high-ranking individuals to explain the situation as it is a newer process in the Army.”
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