Beautiful Military Tattoos That Show Freedom and Bravery
Military tattoos go back centuries, with sailors getting pin-up girl tattoos to accompany them on long journeys or sparrows to remind them of their frequent stowaways. Over time, different divisions of militaries have acquired their own telltale designs and subject matters. Since military life is a defining moment of anyone who enters, getting a tattoo during or after enlistment is a common way of paying tribute to their country for veterans. I’ll be focusing mainly on the American military, but there are all kinds of symbols for the militaries of other countries! So, if you’re American, grab some numbing cream and get ready for a new tattoo dream.
Related Article: Sailor Jerry Tattoos
Getting a Military Tattoo
Before getting a tattoo, keep in mind that there are strict measures in place for getting a tattoo. In the past, you could get tattoos as you pleased, and it was pretty common for sailors to return with tribal tattoos as Polynesian souvenirs. In 2014, the Army put in place a uniform code that restricted soldiers to four tattoos below the elbow or knee, with none of them bigger than a hand’s width. This policy was quickly revised to remove both the size and number limit, and the location limitation was changed drastically. You can get a tattoo anywhere except for your face, neck, and hand…excluding a single ring tattoo per hand. Racist, sexist, and derogatory tattoos are also not allowed. Other divisions may have similar policies in place, so be sure to check with your superior to see what kind of limitations are in place for you. They can also help clarify what constitutes as derogatory. Many divisions consider tattoos to be damaging to the body—which is destruction of government property—so it is essential that you get permission from your superiors before getting your tattoo. Even if you use lidocaine cream, your superiors may take issue with it.
Tattoos have always been a huge part of the military image, so they are somewhat condoned during enlistment. Because they are technically wounds, I advise you to get it when you return from deployment, rather than before you leave. It’s unfortunate, but many stations have medics that are simply not up to par with health standards. The common treatment for infections is to simply prescribe aspirin and wait for the infection to go away. Maybe you can fight your way through a cold, but an infection of the skin is nothing to trifle with. If it gets infected during your deployment, it could ruin the design for the rest of your life. On top of that, if you exercise or swim while the tattoo is still healing, it can warp or fade the ink. Getting your tattoo when you know you have at least one week set aside for the worst parts of the healing process is your best bet for getting a tattoo while in the military. If you know you will have two months of R&R, that’s an ideal time to get your tattoo done—tattoos generally take six weeks to heal. A little bit of tattoo lotion speeds up the process, but not enough that you can set it and forget it on duty.
Military Tattoos for Men
Since the military is made up of mostly men, it should come as no surprise that most of the designs are masculine. That being said, military tattoos are less about appearing manly and more about appearing loyal or patriotic. The design of the tattoo should reflect your dedication to the military and the country it stands for. It should remind you of your companions and adventures. Worrying about whether a tattoo is feminine or masculine is detrimental to the task. As your artist sits you in your tattoo chair or tattoo bed, they won’t care what sort of ‘gender’ your design has. They only care that it looks great.
Related Article: Men’s Tattoo Ideas
Military Tattoos Meanings
- Air Force – The Air Force logo and different types of planes are the main symbols of the Air Force. You will be able to recognize veterans or aeronautic buffs based on whether they recognize the type of plane inked into your skin! Wings and birds are a more symbolic way of showing your support.
- Army – A red beret on top of a skull represents the Airborne Division and their constant flirt with death. Green berets represent special forces units. Camouflage is also popular as a tattoo, for obvious reasons.
- Marines – Getting the letters USMC is very popular among Marines and helps identify their loyalty. Bulldogs, as the unofficial mascot of the Marines, are also very common…although it may not be recognized immediately as a Marine tattoo. A crossed shield with the words crash, fire, and rescue surrounding it represents the unit of the same name. Sometimes, the shield is replaced with particular tools of the trade that the Marine used—in example, a hatchet for breaking down walls in the event of a fire.
- Navy – The Navy has all kinds of symbols. Just check out Sailor Jerry tattoos. Anchors, nautical stars, emblems, pin-up girls, sparrows, swallows, hearts, roses…they own the classical tattoo.
Other Military Tattoo Designs
Military cross tattoos represent a fallen soldier. The death of a soldier is difficult to go through, especially when that soldier was close to you. Fighting on the same field, sleeping in the same place…it’s impossible to convey that kind of loss. A cross with a helmet or gravestone is a testimony to the life of that soldier, ensuring that they are not forgotten.
The American flag tattoo is the go-to symbol for both soldiers and military supporters. The star spangled banner represents justice, valor, and purity. On top of its original meaning, it has come to represent freedom and bravery—the driving virtues that made America into what it is today. No matter what division of the military you are in, you served under the American flag.
Whether you are a supporter of the military, a hardened veteran, or a new recruit eager to show your patriotism, tattoos are an excellent way to illustrate a part of your life that is equally as permanent. The impression of the military shapes who you are, who you will become, and how you view your life. It makes you realize exactly how precious the lives of your fellow men and women are, and it drives you to protect that. Military tattoos are a way to spot your comrades among the crowd and display the most impactful part of your life.
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