Skin color does not determine the level of professionalism of a Marine; so why are visible tattoos judged so poorly? The answer lies within he or she who casts such judgement. It is all based on personal bias. Those who posses such negativity towards tattoos, who at some point – rise to a level of power, begin to implement policy against body art. Of course there was never anything wrong with the original tattoo policy that was in place at the time…the wheel just had to be reinvented I guess.
I was one of those who was so poorly judged. Having had tattoos prior to entering service and adding more to my "art" collection over my years in; I, along with many other brothers and sisters who had body art; became targets of ridicule and ostracization by particular Senior Officers and Senior Enlisted in our chain of command. It didn't matter that every single one of my Fitness Reports was of the highest caliber. It didn't matter that by the time I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, I had already earned 5 personal awards – to include the Meritorious Service Medal. It didn't matter that I was the subject matter expert and top of my MOS field. It didn't matter that as a Staff NCO, I was responsible for transforming over 500 civilians into Marines as a Kilo Company Senior Drill Instructor. None of it mattered.
What really matters now, is that this is not about "me". It's about all the other warriors out there still on active duty who are shunned and oppressed because they follow suit in the line of warriors past.
Marines are WARRIORS! And just like every warrior past; Vikings, Native Americans, Knights, Celts and every other warrior who donned body art as part of their culture – Marines wear body art too! It doesn't mean they are sub-standard. It doesn't mean they are unprofessional. It doesn't mean they are eccentric.
It simply means we are WARRIORS. Leave tattooed Marines alone to do what they do best. Support tattooed Marines!
SSgt/USMC – 1995-2007
Attached photo: SSgt O'Connor – Kilo Co. SDI, circa 2005.