Tattoos in the Military

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Tattoos in the military have been around since before World War II. Soldiers who fought through hurricanes of bullets began marking their experiences and the memory of their fallen friends on their skin. Every military tattoo has a meaning and stands for something deeper than the ink that clings to the surface. A large demographic of soldiers with tattoos in the military get their tattoos immediately before and immediately after their deployments. There are also certain rules and regulations regarding tattoos in the military that soldiers have to abide by. This is probably a factor in the types of tattoos soldiers get.

In an interview on ABC about tattoos in the military, many of the soldiers were describing their bonds and friendships with other soldiers. After deployment many committed to get the same tattoos with another friend or with an entire platoon. Unfortunately, many came back with the loss of a close friend (or many) but stayed true to the commitment and went ahead with the tattoos. Some got quotations from the bible, camouflage sleeves and arm tattoos, cherry blossom tattoos, Celtic tribal tattoos and many others. Other soldiers said that they got a sleeve with military inspired designs such as bullets, bolts, fire, tanks, and guns just because they thought it looked cool. One thing that everyone agreed on was that tattoos in the military are one of the only ways one can express themselves as an individual.

The effect of being so far away from home and isolated from the people one loves and cares about take a toll on a soldiers psychology. They often have a lot of time when they are not patrolling and out and about in combat which lets them think and reflect about their lives back home. Soldiers get tattoos in the military to have a constant reminder of something they carry with them constantly and are engraved beneath their skin. One soldier showed a gigantic cloaked demon of death to remind him that death is out there lurking. Another soldier had 3 memorials of fallen soldiers on his calf. Under each name he had replicated a tattoo they had on their body. One of the coolest military tattoos that I saw was a bullet wound. The soldier had a small bullet wound tattooed on the left of his ribcage and then a giant wound on his right ribcage.

Tattoos in the military are strictly regulated. All of the soldiers kept their tattoos wrapped up unless they were asked to show them. One of the reasons is because a soldier’s tattoo is an easy way for an insurgent to identify and kidnap or attack them. Another reason the military regulates it is because of the way the civilians view the tattoos. The military acknowledges the different cultural views we all have and understand that tattoos are forbidden in Islam and are considered taboo. By regulating tattoos in the military they get one step closer to seeing eye to eye with the civilians and keeping the peace. The US military allows tattoos on the back of the hand as long as they are not offensive and in the back of the neck as long as it is blocked by the jawbone. Tattoos in the military are also only permitted if they are not extremist, offensive, racist, sexist, or indecent.

Same basic rules apply for Canadian Members shall not acquire visible tattoos that could be deemed to be offensive
(e.g., pornographic,  blasphemous, racist) or otherwise reflect discredit on the CF

Visible and non-visible body piercing adornments, with the exception of women’s earrings
and ear sleepers described in sub-paragraph 6.a., shall not be worn by members either in uniform or on
duty in civilian clothing. The meaning of the term “on duty”, for purposes of dress and appearance.

As of 1 April 2004 CF members are not to acquire any tattoos that are visible on the head, neck, chest or ears when an open collared shirt is worn.
Tattoos acquired prior to 1 April 2004 must comply with para 9

Source: gbushy's blog