Army soldier with a beard
After years of strictly enforcing standards of physical appearance, the Army has since relaxed its views a bit.

The army's recent decision to lighten up on religious beards, turbans and hijabs is suiting one unknown Norse pagan soldier just fine.

An unnamed bearded soldier from the 795th Military Police Battalion has apparently been granted the right to preserve his facial hair as a form of worship to Thor, the red-bearded, hammer-wielding Norse god known to travel in a chariot drawn by two massive goats.

A memo written by commander Col. Curtis Shroedero, to whom the request was made and ultimately granted, was circulated on Facebook. Its authenticity was later confirmed by a Missouri spokeswoman to the Army Times. "In observance of your Heathen; Norse Pagan faith, you may wear a beard, in accordance with Army uniform and grooming standards for soldiers with approved religious accommodation," the memo said.

Change of Heart

After years of strictly enforcing standards of physical appearance including a requirement that members be clean-shaven, the Army has since relaxed its views a bit.

Many of the new "grooming standards" were laid out in a 2017 decision to accommodate religious requirements for facial hair. Although it also addressed stipulations for headscarves, hijabs, hair braids, cornrows, twists and locks, it seemed most directed at male Sikh service members, whose religion requires them to grow beards.

Norse pagans have no such requirements, although facial hair is encouraged. But the Army choosing to accommodate the soldier's request shows that:

  1. They are no longer the sticklers for the rules they once were, and
  2. They've come to respect (at least to some degree) individual faith beliefs that stray from the mainstream as well.

Beards: Unprofessional or Practical?

The classic image of the American soldier has been of the clean-shaven variety. And to be fair, there has been some method to the army's clean-cut madness. The military first prohibited beards during the First World War, when the introduction of chemical warfare greatly increased the risk they could get in the way of life-saving gas masks.

But those rules have evolved with warfare. More recently, some special operations soldiers serving in the Middle East have been allowed to grow beards so that they might better blend in with local populations.

Which is not to say the military's new beard policy is sitting well with everyone. In fact, Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently insisted beards remain both a distraction and a "gimmick."

Religious Exemptions

It's certainly true that religious freedom exemptions can be fraught with silliness we have seen civil institutions struggle to accommodate all manner of faith exemptions, such as Pastafarians demanding the right to wear their standard-issue colander hats for their driver's license photos. But accommodating beliefs can also be downright dangerous: religious families claiming exemptions from standard vaccinations have put entire communities at risk in recent years.

What do you think? Has the army gone too far to accommodate a soldier whose faith doesn't require he wear a beard in the first place? Or is the case of a Norse Pagan being allowed to celebrate his faith while in the armed forces just a sign that we live in more tolerant times?


  1. Don's Avatar Don

    Heathen?? Ah, the "tolerance" of the Christian majority. I bet they don't call Muslims or Sikhs "heathens" even though the term would technically apply to all. Maybe we should start referring to Christians who ignore the Sabbath (Saturday) as Heretics.

    1. John Owens's Avatar John Owens

      I'd go along with that.

    2. John A Anderson, CD, CIF Mons ON's Avatar John A Anderson, CD, CIF Mons ON

      Heathen, with a capital, refers to Norse Paganism, unless it is starting a sentence, with a small "h" refers to someone who lives on the heath, much like pagan refers to someone who lives in the countryside, rather than a city dweller. As for Muslims, they are monotheistic, which makes them a sister faith to Judeo-Christianity. Sikhism is a blend of Islam and Hindu faiths.

    3. Alexander's Avatar Alexander

      Most pagans I know, or know of, routinely refer to themselves as heathens as well as pagans. The names for all intents and purposes mean the same thing....pagani, latin for country dweller, and heathens live out on the wild heath. Ie folk with a simple earthy country religion, not the cool new urban religion they have in the cities. Or to quote Lord Summerisle, referring to himself, "A heathen, conceivably, but not, I hope, an unenlightened one."

      1. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

        Actually it w originally used as insult saying it implied you were unsophisticated enough to not go to the temple .

    4. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      Hathen: "an unconverted member of a people or nation who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible" therefore neither christians, muslims, nor jews are not heathens. Is there any evidence this Norse soldier doesn't acknowledge the god of the bible? (Hint - nope) There is a noticeable difference between acknowledging a god and worshiping it.

  1. Katelynne Victoria Shouse's Avatar Katelynne Victoria Shouse

    THOR approves!

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Why not? Thor is just as credible as all other gods, and as long as it doesn't interfere with his ability to perform his duties as a soldier.


    1. Theresa M Ede's Avatar Theresa M Ede

      I agree. But, it also brings up the debate about trans people. What the army is saying here is you can wear a beard to worship a myth but you can't be who you really are. What are your thoughts on that?

      1. Woke's Avatar Woke

        Our military needs to be wary of all forms of mental illness

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          They do indeed, yet they accept people who are afflicted with religion.


        2. Jemma's Avatar Jemma

          I, as a Trans Soldier, 100% agree with you. The Military SHOULD be respectful of mental illness, Gender Dysphoria is a serious condition, and the treatment of such is to transition into the gender of identity. Once a soldier with Gender Dysphoria has transitioned they are usually free of serious dysphoric episodes and are just as capable of serving in the military as literally anyone else. The Military should respect their right to appropriate medical care, which is decided by their medical care provider and not the religious views or whims of the White House or other non medical authority. And Yet! we live in a society where trans people are discriminated against in the military and special accomidations are made for people with imaginary friends.

      2. Mink Staff's Avatar Mink Staff

        You assume that Thor is not a true God... He is very much a real and true god as much as any other god of any other religion. The word myth has been used out of context for so long that it's definition seems to mean untrue, comic... NOT SO. Thor is worshipped, honored and believed in today as he has always been by Germanic people of old and by modern decendants of those people. If not for the forced conversion of the pagan people (pagan means country dweller), there would be a lot more, but more and more are waking up. Asatu is one name of the Norse religion which means " true gods".. Iceland and Faroe Islands were among the last converted and they continue to have a large number that believe in and practice the old ways and worship the old gods. Today, many are abandoning the foreign religion and alien gods of Christianity and going back to their indigenous original "religion",as other peoples throughout the world still have and practice their authentic, indigenous religions. Thor is a real god, honored today by many.

        1. CB's Avatar CB

          You are right. It is admirable this soldier is showing his respect for Thor!

          1. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

            God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent - it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills. [Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

  1. Valdis's Avatar Valdis

    It’s just hair. It doesn’t get in the way and isn’t a health hazard, so it’s fine with me.

    1. Theresa M Ede's Avatar Theresa M Ede

      I've seen some beards that should be condemned as a hazard to health. ;)

      1. CB's Avatar CB

        LOL...yes, I have too, and this is why grooming standards for facial hair were invented!

  1. Rev. Dr. Gordon Francis Blaney Jr.'s Avatar Rev. Dr. Gordon Francis Blaney Jr.

    This is it really a religious question in so much as it is a legal question. Some countries do not allow for a religious freedoms. In the USA where I’m from, we are protected By the constitution. However, some laws are unconstitutional and have remained on challenged. In our country I don’t believe that religious freedom was ever meant to infringe upon other individuals, and I base this upon what the Declaration of Independence says.

  1. Ben's Avatar Ben

    Praise Odin!

  1. Kirk's Avatar Kirk

    “Service before self!” They can all find another job.

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      I'm a Pagan hippy,and go with the gods and goddesses of Greece, Rome, and Egypt, but if I joined the army, to save my beard, I wouldn't have a problem switching to the Norse pantheon during my enlistment. We're all children of the same universe.

    2. Theresa M Ede's Avatar Theresa M Ede

      Perhaps then we don't need a military? If "They can all find another job."; a rather intolerant statement.

    3. kyle's Avatar kyle

      As an Eagle scout, it's not "service before self" in this case. God, Country, Family, Self. Service to God, whichever you believe in, comes first. And therein lies an interesting idea. Perhaps that God may or may not exist, but represents your morals, your constructed way of life stemming from a sense of right and wrong. God is still at the top of that list, a construct in the early years in which this priority was created perhaps, but one that allows you to consider your own sense of wrong and right before accepting an outside source such as a nation or culture, but rather, your own beliefs. Your own conscience. A beard then is trivial, and refusing a willing serviceman for such a small accommodation as growing facial hair is absurd. Whether we go to Heaven, Nirvana, Valhalla, or wherever, when we DIE IN SERVICE TO THIS COUNTRY, in this life we protect the American ideal and in fact, part of that ideal is respecting the diversity this country defends! Your neighbors of numerous cultures, your countless masses who came here for a real shot at life, all Americans like you. I respect my servicemen, and I respect their God-given and American-given right to believe and practice. Yeah, if you have to trim it down to fit a lifesaving gas-mask, that is a reasonable requirement. Otherwise, if you're fearing for your life in a foxhole, why the hell would you demand your partner shave?

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    Navy has allowed Beards for Decades without religious reason.. My mothers first husband was a Bearded Navy Pilot Lost during WW2 They needed pilots bad enough they didn't CARE... I have a friend that Ran Boiler on Small River to Sea Boats during Nam; He Came back from leave to late to Shave Before inspection... "You Growing a Beard Sailor or You Just Lazy?" "Growing a Beard SIR!"... Still has one ;) ifthere are Specific Jobs that one Can not wear a Beard. So be it But Mask Tech is Way Beyond what it was During WW 1 for that Matter due to Geneva Convention Etc There should be no need for gas masks.. Now What I might have issue with..?. Is This Soldiers Norse Belief System a White Supremacist orientation? That HAS NO PLACE IN OUR MILITARY!! ;( apparently due to the Racist attitudes of our "Commander in Chief" open White suppremacists have grown in our military.. Not GOOD! The issues of Followers of Assatru or Norse Beliefs having Similar attitudes to Aryan nation/Brotherhood Etc. has Long been a Problem.. 12-13 yrs ago a Small city on the west side of the Puget sound with Scandinavian Heritage Chose a Mixed race Highschool girl for the Queen of their yearly Festival. Some Racist; Supposedly Norse Group; Made Open threats To Appear and Disrupt the Fest if she was not replaced with one of "Pure Blood" The Police Chief Responded with All are Welcome to our Town and Fest; But if Yo come toDisrupt with Acts of Violence KNOW THIS: There are Limited Exits Off our peninsula! Many of Our Community are Hunters, Loggers and Fisherman; and will Do Whatever it takes to Protect our Home... You WILL NOT ESCAPE! Not Surprisingly They had NO Problems with outsiders.. ;)

    and that is How Racism Should be dealt with; in the Military and in our Communities...

    1. Robin's Avatar Robin

      Norse religion is not racially motivated. Stop letting the actions of a few moronic individuals who claim they follow Norse religion dictate how the rest of them are viewed. There is no excuse for obtuseness anymore with such an abundance of knowledge available these days.

    2. Robert Mitchell's Avatar Robert Mitchell

      The Navy did away with the beards in 1985. You can still have a beard if it covers a facial scar. I know because I was on a "Med cruise" when we had to shave the beards. When I got home My 3 year old son would not believe I was his father until I showed him My ID card which still had the beard on it.

  1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

    I ca'nt see how men look better clean shaven. It kind of makes our faces look like women's. I guess the majority of military brass prefer looking at soldiers with pretty faces, for some strange reason. Beards are definitely manly. Why would the army want manly looking soldiers? Maybe they're hoping to make soldiers look like sailors. And we all know what they say about them.

  1. linda salavarria's Avatar linda salavarria

    I respect those who risk their lives for our country and it's citizens. I don't worry about appearance details for any reason.

  1. Kenneth Brooks's Avatar Kenneth Brooks

    So, as a Norse Heathen, I find this whole thing upsetting. I don't agree with the military grooming standards because they are out dated and impractical, not for religious reasons. Nowhere in any of the eddas, our closest thing to source texts, does it mandate or even concern itself with facial hair. Especially not Thor, who is along other things the god of law. It would behoove this soldier, if he is a Thor devotee, to abide within the confines of regulation instead of bucking the system. This sort of thing creates a false image of our religion and sets a poor precedent. If this soldier is claiming Thor told him to grow a beard, and that is the evidence he is standing on (personal Divine transmission), where does the line get drawn? How do we then deny anyone claiming their God or gods told them to do anything? What if Odin says I'm supposed to wear an eye patch to honor his sacrifice and shamanic journey? What if Loki (yes there are loki devotees) demands something if me (I shudder to think what)? The military should change their grooming standards because it's 2019 and our gas masks work over facial hair now, not because of religious gerimandering.

    1. Sheila's Avatar Sheila

      It seems he and you are attending different denominations of the Norse Heathen religion. Whether to abide by confines of regulation vs. honor Thor in a way you feel called to do, even though Thor doesn't require it. Regardless - I love this religious freedom being upheld. Power to American Constitution rightly discerned and upheld. Yay!!! But if you want to murder someone based on your religious beliefs, go find another country that will uphold that for you cuz our American Constitution doesn't uphold that. HUGE difference. And, no I'm not talking about what military does killing people. I'm talking murder for breaking religious beliefs, cutting off someone's hand for stealing, etc. HUGE difference.

      1. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

        The wonderful thing about the Norse and many other pagan Sect's is there's very little centralized DOGMA and cast in stone rules on how each person must adhere . Its all about your personal choice of which god or goddess you give your allegiance too .

  1. CRAIG's Avatar CRAIG

    On all fronts perceptions are changing and in this new 21st century world, old and outdated practices are going by the wayside. With the military, my perception has always been that they want soldiers to be part of a team and to all look similar. Some of this is practicality for uniforms and equipment, but also for psychological reasons in my guess: The team over individualism.

    However, never having served in the military, I don't know that for sure. Yet, if they let the guy grow a beard, and it poses no distractions from duty, I certainly have no problem with it.

    Our culture as part of the United States is a melting pot of cultures, ideas and yes, religion--no matter what certain portions of the population like to believe. It's time we truly embraced religious tolerance for Christians, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, the others I've missed and pagans.

    It's also time for us to move forward and spend more time focused on our own relationship with God (or not), instead of worrying and persecuting others for what they believe, or don't.

    If the army approves of this guy wearing a beard into battle, then so be it.

    1. Richard's Avatar Richard

      Hmmmm, after watching history channels Vikings and seeing Ragnar get utterly destroyed in straight up battles with the French, I'm shaving my beard and wearing my beret backwards. Who'd of thought the French were tougher than Vikings? My once dropped, never fired French rifle has new la France !!!!

    2. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

      During training theres many good reasons to eliminate hair mostly having to do with how much times wasted on cleaning and grooming . Takes very little time to rub soap on ur head and face than trying o shampoo and comb hair if your bald .

  1. Bill Fox's Avatar Bill Fox

    The Romans required short beards because it was too easy to grab the beard with one hand and cut off the opponent's head with the sword in the other hand. When I was in the Marines in the late 1960's, black Marines were allowed "Afros" while the rest of us had crew cuts with white sidewalls. Most blacks stuck with the crew cut and white sidewall because it was more traditional. "Standing out" is not a historical tradition in any military, unless you are a general in a parade. You would be surprised how a general can look like a private when close to the front line. We even abandoned saluting officers in most situations in a combat zone, because it fronted the officer as a sniper target. If the pagan wants to stand out, more power to him.

  1. Michael's Avatar Michael

    I don't really see an issue with this, Religious views aside. American soldiers and Peace Officers didn't even adopt the custom until around the American Revolution, if not after. Honestly, I find myself more in favor of hair and beards than spending so much wasted time primping.

  1. renie's Avatar renie

    clean shaven and short hair cuts are the name of the game . that si the military if you want to join a club then do not join the us military weirdest. of all weirds ones. get real!

  1. David's Avatar David

    "Heathen" simply means a person who does not conform to christian norms in some way. It is not an insult. It is a badge of honor.

  1. Reese Dorrycott's Avatar Reese Dorrycott

    I believe that Athena would smile upon this decision. It is simply too bad that in the 70's the Air force believed in only three religions and enforced their beliefs upon everyone.

  1. Tom Peterson's Avatar Tom Peterson

    i believe it is a welcome change to those like myself who never could please the brass even by shaving twice a day. had i not received so much harassment over beard standards i would have remained in and wished to have retired .

  1. Ed's Avatar Ed

    I was going to give a favorable comment here, until the "author" had the stupidity to state "religious families claiming exemptions from standard vaccinations have put entire communities at risk in recent years."

    First off, if vaccines actually work, then someone not vaccinated simply can't be a threat, or else the vaccines aren't working.

    Next, vaccines are based off of *the previous year's strain," especially in cases like flu shots. Yet vaccines mutate. How is that supposed to work.

    And there are STILL being aborted HUMAN babies parts being used in vaccines: Vaccine data from CDC Vaccine ingredient WI-38 > 3 months gestation fetus; female; Caucasian; Homo sapiens, human; lung Vaccine ingredient MRC-5 > Homo sapiens, human; lung; 14 weeks gestation; Male; Caucasian Polish study says vaccines have no historical benefits, continue to cause neurological damage

    1. CB's Avatar CB

      Check these out:

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