Tattoos and the military go hand in hand or, as Gump would say, "like peas and carrots." Over the past 100 years, this nation has seen more than her fair share of wars; this past century has been called the most violent on record, with almost every generation getting a shot at going "over there".
Over the same 100 years, tattooing has evolved from being viewed as exotic, even taboo or illegal -- something an 18-year old sailor would do while drunk and on leave during a port call to Samoa -- to being mainstream. Ink can now be found not just in the locker room, but in the board room and even the church pew, no longer restricted to the military Joes.
With that said, I wanted to take a look at our warfighters, the original American tattoo subculture, to showcase the incredible tattoos our service men and women choose to carve across their bodies as an unconventional record of where they've been and who they've lost. These images speak a thousand words.
During my service in the Army, instead of paying hundreds of dollars to some tattoo shop, I decided to marry a tattoo artist, my own personal Kat Von D (but way hotter), so that everywhere the Army put me, I wasn't far from that buzzing machine. This proved to be one of my better ideas when old Uncle Sam sent me to Europe, brand new out of the box from training. I was stationed in Germany and the Euro was priced as if it were plated in pure platinum: Tattoo work off-post was going for 140 Euros an hour, which financially translates into the total GDP of Grenada. Thankfully, my wife was on point and during the three years we were over there, she was cleaning up. If you were stationed in Bamberg between 2007 and 2009, chances are the ink in your skin was done by my wife. This was the point when I became mesmerized with the history of military ink.
I have literally seen thousands of designs on our service men and women, which gave me the bright idea of collecting these images -- artwork that most Americans barely give a glance to. Many times these masterful works of art are hidden just under the sleeve or pant leg. In fact, if you're reading this article on the train or bus, that person sitting next to you might just have some art rivaling Michelangelo covered by a suit and tie. So, here's your opportunity to take an up-close look at this extraordinary artwork.
As you will notice, the stories behind these tattoos are similar: to memorialize lost comrades, pay tribute to spouses and kids, to provide strength. I hope you, too, are amazed by war-fighters' ink.