Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yes, it's true .... I have a tattoo

Yes, it's true. I have a tattoo. In this day and age of the acceptance of such little works of art, maybe it's no big deal. Back in 1968 it was a big deal .. at least for me it was.

I received my skin art back in my days as a young Marine. The day after I got it, I thought to myself that I had really done it now. How was I going to explain this to my mom?

Now my tattoo isn't a woman in a lewd, suggestive pose. I wasn't that stupid. It isn't a girl's name or even a `Texas' tattoo. I was a Marine and by gosh, I would have a Marine's tattoo. No Devil Dog, Globe & Anchor or `The Corps' for me .... just a simple `*USMC*' located on the inside of my right forearm. I would like to share the story on how it got there.

I was a Private First Class (E2) in '68 and a Squad Leader at Camp Pendleton - Marine Corps Base in California. I was tight (close) with the men in my squad and knew each well. After 12 weeks of Marine Corps Boot Camp, you get to think of your fellow Marines as family. My squad was my `closest family'. One of my men was a fellow from Arkansas. He had seen a tattoo on another Marine of a huge black panther clawing it's way up the man's forearm. My Marine had to have one.

Being his leader, I felt I had the responsibility to try to talk him out of it. I did everything I could to discourage him from marring his body with this junk. His mind was set. I agreed to go with him when he left to get his tattoo while on liberty. I thought I would work on him right up to the last. It didn't work. He got his tattoo and somewhere along the way - I got mine. In fact there was 7 of us on that trip and we each got one with mine being the smallest .. thank goodness. I had made a mistake .. a bad one. This was something that I was sure I would regret forever.

You know, I used to blame him and alcohol for the reason I allowed this painted scar to be put on my body. That was until he was killed in Viet Nam in 1970. Since then, each time I look at it, I feel a little pride that I knew a young Marine who went to fight for his country and paid the ultimate price. And he gave me something besides a memory to remember him by. I still don't care much for tattoos on me but then again, someone else's tattoo is none of my business. His/her reasons are their own. You see, I mellowed!!!

So I have a tattoo and it's one I'm proud of. It reminds me of a great military organization I belong to and a friend who thought of me as his big brother.

I remember coming home from the Marines and showing my tattoo to my Dad. I waited for the frown and words of disapproval. Instead he smiled and told me about when he received his Army tattoo. It was the first time we got into a conversation about his war experiences and memories. One memory was when he and his Army buddies went into town to get their tats.

When my son came home from the Air Force Base in Germany about 20 years ago, we waited to hear about his adventures into this new world he had joined. When he and I was alone, he said he wanted me to see something. Why was I not surprised when he started rolling up his sleeve? I looked at the `USAF' tattooed there and smiled.

To me, it symbolized a family tradition and an old memory.

To him, it symbolized a family tradition and a new memory.

Yep, I have a tattoo and am damn proud of it....


  1. This is a true story, and I love hearing over and over. I'm proud of my son wanting to carry on the tradition.

  2. That's a great story. I've always toyed with the idea of a tattoo, but could never come up with something I thought I would like when I got old and saggy!! :) Yours fits you fine, Jay.