Supporting Marines’ Tattoo Policy

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - April 04, 2007

I am not a tattoo kind of guy. I don’t have one, I don’t want one and I won’t get one. I know there are many men and women who sport tattoos and I don’t deride their decision to do so. But I believe a tattoo, for the most part, defaces the human body rather than celebrates it.

OK, before the brethren of tattoo supporters rise up with torches and pitchforks, I would like to stress this is only an opinion. Since I don’t share the passion some may have for tattooing their bodies, I am coming from a very subjective position. I am not on an anti-tattoo tirade. I simply don’t understand why someone is compelled to make a virtually indelible mark on their body with messages as varied as butterflies to demonic images.

I will grant you this. I have seen some incredible talent demonstrated by some tattoo artists. The designs, colors, techniques and, yes, beauty created painstakingly are tremendously impressive. But to see these images on the chest of a shirtless man or the back of a sunbathing woman is simply not attractive to me.

In the private sector, we have the luxury of choice. I acknowledge this freedom of choice with the decision to wear a tattoo or not. You can choose to display one, but you also understand there are some who are not comfortable with this image. Conversely, there may be those who view your tattoo as a wonderful thing and that influence could work in your favor. This dynamic is most apparent regarding employment. An employer should have the right to set standards for employment and those pursuing a job have the right to refuse.

The United States military, however, is a whole different ball game. A story last week reported that the U.S. Marine Corps has instituted a ban on tattoos. The reasoning is the Marines want to preserve their “spit and shine” image and they believe large, visible tattoos send the opposite message.

Understandably, there are those who are not happy with this decision. But what the Marines are saying is right. The appearance of a tattoo runs counter to what they believe is acceptable to the general populace, and the image of the Marines is important enough as not to compromise.

Yes, there is another side of this story. We demand so much from the men and women in our military and we sometimes fail to give in return. The drinking age in most states is 21, so an 18-year-old private can’t have a beer with the rest of his unit. The rate of pay is anemic in contrast to the demands put upon our active duty, reserves, guards-men and their families. The nature of the job requires the separation of families for months, sometimes more than a year, at a time. Military service is not a walk in the park. Why can’t we just give these fighting men and women a break?

It is because the service and the mission are greater than the individual’s desire. I am certain there are many aspects of military life soldiers would like to change, but the uniformity of appearance serves the objective of uniformity of purpose.

I’ll probably never understand why people wear tattoos, but I do understand the display of tattoos can be an unnecessary distraction.

It appears the U.S. Marine Corps agrees, and that’s good enough for me.

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