By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Harkirat Singh Soin remembers a day in 1999 when, after much contemplation, he finally took a seat in a barber's chair.
All his 18 years, he'd worn long hair, first in a top knot, then in a dastar, or turban. It was an expression of his Sikh faith and a distinct mark of his identity.
As his locks tumbled to the floor, Soin felt ashamed.
He thought of his upbringing in a suburban Milwaukee neighborhood by Punjabi parents who emigrated from India. He grew up on meals of homemade roti and daal makhani and sessions at Sunday school that instilled Sikh values. He thought also of how his mother had taken time to maintain her boys' long hair with love and care.
With every snip of the shears, he felt, he lost not just hair but parts of his being.
But he was tired of not fitting in, of being teased. Once when he was in elementary school, he was even beaten with sticks by neighborhood troublemakers, he says.
"I am guessing that they turned on me because I was different," says Soin, now 32 and studying for his U.S. medical license in Illinois after finishing medical school in China.
He became the first member of his family to shed the most visible signs of his faith. His father and older brother still wear a turban and beard.
He is like thousands of other Sikh men who have abandoned turbans to avoid discrimination or bias. Others simply feel they are old hat and interfere with modern lifestyles.
The turban, tied in distinctive fashion, was a way to manage long hair and serves as the most instant way to recognize a Sikh.
By Maria LaMagna, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Things probably should have turned out differently for Samantha Schilling.
The stories she tells have dark beginnings and could have had, under different circumstances, dark endings - as so many stories for those in the military do.
Schilling, now 31, served in the U.S. Navy from 1999 to 2003. She was never deployed but worked as an information systems technician at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.
Several of her friends were killed during the 2000 al Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which left 17 dead and at least 37 injured. Some of the injured were transferred to her base in Norfolk.
Many of the survivors suffered from mental trauma after the bombing. One of them, a man who had been aboard the ship, attacked Schilling and attempted to rape her.
That assault drove home the impact that active duty had on her colleagues' mental state.
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – People of all faiths lit candles and prayed Tuesday night in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for those killed and wounded at Sunday's mass shooting at a Sikh temple.
The prayer and remembrance vigil, which appeared to draw a large crowd, was held outdoors in the Milwaukee suburb.
The step toward healing came as family and friends recalled the six killed by a gunman.
The older son of one victim, Paramjit Kaur, 41, said his mother was shot just after completing prayers.
When Kaur was in the temple praying, "My aunt told her that there was a shooting going on outside, we need to get up and leave," said 20-year-old son Kamal Saini. "Rather than just getting up and leaving, she wanted to just bow down and pray for the last time and then get up and leave. She was just getting up. She was shot in the back."
Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, the Census Bureau shares its 2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment, one of the largest quantitative efforts done for race and Hispanic origin research. This interview with outgoing Census Director Robert M. Groves has been edited for clarity.
By Guy Garcia, Special to CNN
Plagued by technical difficulties and poor planning, the bureau seemed ill-prepared to tackle the gargantuan task of counting the nation’s growing and increasingly diverse population.
Groves, a professor and director of the Public Research Center at the University of Michigan and the author of several books on statistical surveys, certainly had the right background for the job, but congressional critics questioned whether he had the organizational moxie to get the bureau back on track.
He not only fixed the technical snafus and produced census surveys in dozens of languages to better reach the nation’s polyglot population, but he also streamlined the bureaucracy and completed the 2010 Census $1.9 billion under budget.
In his final week as Census Bureau director, he spoke to CNN about what he learned about America, and what he sees for its future.
CNN: How is America changing?
GROVES: My personal experiences as a Census Bureau director have taught me that talking about a “mainstream” culture doesn’t make much sense. It’s hard to go from Manhattan to, you know, Lincoln, Nebraska, without saying, "Gee, I’m in two very different places." People talk differently, they move at different rates, they’re interested in different things, they’re knowledgeable about different things. They interact differently. So it isn’t quite clear to me anymore what we mean by mainstream culture. We are many different cultures in this country, and we’re actually quite proud of that. FULL POST