Tattooed GIs just as dedicated
Letters to the Editor, April 23, 2012
Tattoos. That seems to be the great Army debate, and that’s all it seems that we read about these days. It seems that policymakers have it out for soldiers who have tattoos, especially on their necks. Have we as an Army forgotten the last decade of conflicts? Have we forgotten Sept. 11? Has it ever crossed the policymakers’ minds that maybe, just maybe, some of these “tattooed rebels” joined the Army because they felt a patriotic calling to serve their country?
Our beloved men and women joined in a wartime situation knowing they might just find themselves fighting to defend our freedoms, and with a chance they might not come home. When these soldiers were boarding a plane to deploy, did their tattoos matter then?
It just seems that in the light of the Army scaling the forces down they are trying to return to the old “parade pretty” garrison lifestyle. This is 2012, not 1980. We as an Army, and a generation, have changed. We need to realize that a lot of great soldiers had a life outside the Army prior to joining to defend their country in a post-Sept. 11 environment. In the post-Sept. 11 Army, we relaxed our standards to boost numbers. We allowed tattoos to show on the hands and above the collar, and sleeves were no issue at all. The Army survived.
I am tired of reading about how tattoos give a soldier an “unprofessional” appearance. Unprofessionalism should not be judged by a blot of ink. It should be judged by individual performance.
“I’m not afraid to call a marksman a marksman.” That’s what my old first sergeant used to say. How true that is. If you aren’t making the cut, you should get cut, tattooed or not. I can only understand booting a soldier out if he or she has tattoos that are outright disgusting or offensive.
The policymakers’ opinion is obviously toward soldiers with tattoos and, as we all can clearly see, their opinions are reflected in proposed new regulations. We as an Army can’t forget all the hard work and sacrifices our men and women, tattoos or not, have done for this Army, and country. We ask so much of our soldiers, day in and day out. If this new regulation gets approved we will be affecting a lot of soldiers and their well-being. If we loosen the tattoo and grooming standards for heavy war, and tighten them again as things quiet, what message are we sending? That a kid with a tattoo who is willing to risk dying is good enough for us only when we need numbers? It sure looks that way.
America tattoos itself. The Army needs to stay in step.