The traditional American tattoo style has long been associated with branches of the armed servicemen that have dedicated their lives and made sacrifices to fight for our freedom. In the early 20th century, Navy sailors would often get tattooed upon their arrival back in the states; the Long Beach Pike was one of the most popular locations for tattoo shops to set up and ink docked servicemen.
Some of the most common “sailor” or “navy” tattoos usually incorporated traditional imagery; anchors, swallows, hula girls, nautical stars and other patriotic symbols were amongst the most popular tattoos that army and navy servicemen would get. These military tattoos served as luck charms representing stability, strength, and brotherhood. Swallows represented an accomplished sailor that has traveled great lengths, Hula girls represented the exotic lands they may have traveled to, and so on.
Other than the Navy, the Army, Air Force and the Marine Corps had their own brand of military tattoos. Most of these servicemen forge strong brotherhoods and bonds throughout their years of active duty; it is very common to see the insignia of these specific branches tattooed.
Marine tattoos often incorporate dogs, eagles, flags, blood type, guns, and the infamous “Semper Fi”. Wartime is uncertain, so Marines get their medical information tattooed on them in case of injury. Portraits of loved ones are also common military tattoos as they are a constant reminder of home when the soldier is in a far away land.
Of course with war comes loss; many military tattoos are tributes and memorials to fallen soldiers that died serving their country in the line of duty. The immense brotherly bond between soldiers clearly runs skin deep; their dog tags or names with their helmet and gun is often the way to pay tribute via tattoo.
Being in any branch of military is a massive commitment. In a span of a few years, one’s life is forever changed, good or bad. Tattoos are often thought of as chapter marks on skin that reflect a certain period in our lives and military tattoos are just that; a lifelong reminder of love, loss, memory, brotherhood and commitment to country and liberty.