Service members petitioning to be allowed to have beards again

U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Company B, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, shave aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., May 17, 2016. The recruits were required to shave their facial hair prior to beginning the day's training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta/Released)

American service members are petitioning for the return of beards to the US military, with their petition now containing well over 10,000 signatures.

According to the petition page “Beards for Military“ on change.org, the writers of the petition call for the return of the long-gone tradition of tasteful facial hair on service members, citing a boost in morale.

“All I want is to be able to grow a beard,” the petition reads, as penned by Ed Beebe.  “I want to grow long locks of love on my face that will make me feel like a manly man.  It is not something out of this world to ask. Grooming standards will still be in effect, but I just want facial hair that I can run my fingers through.  This is free of cost to the government and can have morale boosting potential for military members.”

The petition proposes grooming standards for beards and the option to shave if there is a chemical threat where gas masks may be needed.

“What about a chemical environment where a gas mask is needed?” the petition asks. “In environments where a chemical threat is possible JUST SHAVE.  If it is found later that no chemical threat is near then grow that manly beard right back out.  Easy day.”

The ban on beards came primarily around the time of World War I, during the dawn of chemical warfare. Since then, the allowances or re-introduction of beards has been either short-lived policy (such as the 1970s Navy) or on a case-by-case basis, such as Special Operations Forces.

Beards have also come up as a sore topic of discussion in the case of several Sikh soldiers and a rabbi who were citing religious reasons for their facial hair.

US Army AR 670-1 regulations state that “Handlebar mustaches, goatees, and beards are not authorized. If appropriate medical authority allows beard growth, the maximum length authorized for medical treatment must be specific.” For example, “The length of the beard cannot exceed 1/4 inch.”

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