The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A sergeant, maybe an American, in death

Washington/Chandigarh, Dec. 4: Army Spc. Uday Singh, 21, the first Indian casualty in President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, has been posthumously promoted as a sergeant.

Death may not deny Singh one of his objectives in coming to the US: American citizenship. US government sources here said the young immigrant from India who died for America may be posthumously made a US citizen.

The US embassy in New Delhi, which had earlier informed the soldier’s parents in Chandigarh about their son’s fate, today issued a statement expressing its “profound sadness” over Singh’s “tragic death on December 1 while serving with US forces in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom”.

The statement said “his honourable service has been recognised by the US armed forces”.

Media in Illinois and Kansas reported today that the US authorities want Singh to be buried in Arlington, the US national cemetery for the war dead and several American presidents.

Sources here said the body may be brought to the US first for autopsy and then flown to India for last rites, if the family so desired.

The family is undecided on whether to go to the US for the funeral or bring his body home.

“I was against him joining the army, but he wouldn’t listen,” Uday’s mother Manjeet said in their Sector 18 residence in Chandigarh.

“He was a daredevil and loved racing cars. But he loved the combat gear the most. He told me he was used to giving orders to the servants here at home but was getting used to being shouted at in the army. How I wish he had stayed in India,” she said.

Singh, who joined the US army in August 2001, was assigned to the First Infantry Division as an armour crewman at the unit which was stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas, until it was deployed in Kuwait and later in Iraq three months ago.

At the time of his death, Singh had the designation of Specialist (Spc.), which is one notch above Private First Class (Pfc.), the lowest rank in the army. After his death, he has been promoted by two ranks as a sergeant.

In the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, where Singh lived before he enlisted for military service, his uncle Prem Jay Dutt told the Illinois media that the unlucky Indian youth joined the army to “save up enough money and go to college. He wanted to get a degree and do well in life”.

“We had no idea he would join the army. He worked at odd places before deciding to join the army after I gave him permission,” his father, Lt Col. (retd) Preet Mohinder Singh said.

“When his mother met him in March this year, he told her not to worry about anything as he could take care of himself and the entire family. But he did mention in his letter to me that his contingent used to be fired upon at least 20 to 30 times a day,” he said, breaking down.

Preet Mohinder is yet to recuperate from a stroke he suffered a fortnight ago.

Ten-year-old Bani, Uday’s sister, is confused. The tears of her parents and grandmother, Anoop, haven’t stopped, but she hasn’t been told why. The student of Lawrence School, Sanawar, fears the worst: “Kya bhaiyya se kabhi nahin mil sakoongi (Shall I never meet my brother'”

St Stephen’s School, where Uday studied till Class XII before leaving for the US, is holding a special memorial service tomorrow.

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