Friday, November 2, 2007


Tattoos are everywhere in the Corps. Well, perhaps not so much these days, but when I was in, there was a bit more in the way of making your own choices. Marines were free for the most part to get what they wanted where they wanted. And there was variety, let me tell ya.

The first tattoos usually started right after boot camp and schools immediately after, when most felt compelled to run out and get their 'oorah tat'. This was the near obligatory tattoo that had something to do with the Marine Corps and certain MOSs.

I remember once, immediately after a hump, hearing about a Marine that had asked for the doc. One would expect complaints dealing with the blisters, sprained ankles, or cramps, something like that. When he complained about his shoulders, well, that kind of threw the doc for a loop. A short investigation revealed that the Marine had felt sufficiently motivated to get a rather large tattoo, the word 'FREEDOM', in two inch high letters, across his shoulders. Right before heading out to the field.


It actually was pretty nice, a really intricate design, and the 'O' was actually the symbol of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, representing the Corps. Problem was, if you get a tat, you generally want to keep it clean for a while after you get it. Going out to the field for a couple of weeks for training is not a good way to maintain the utmost in personal cleanliness. That hump must have been really interesting, to tote a pack right on top of a fresh tat!

Meat tags also became somewhat popular, at one time. These are the tats that are usually located somewhere on the torso, more or less on the ribs (to make the experience more... interesting). The tattoo itself is about the size of dog tags, and has more or less the same info. I wasn't ever really sure why one would get this stuff, because Marines have just about everything else marked with ink or actual dog tags, but hey, whatever floats yer boat, I suppose.

I especially liked the liberty tats. These are the ones that usually involve several days of liberty and a few choice beverages. On occasion, the virtue of a certain lady back home was involved. This would be where one would generally expect to see cartoon characters like Speedy Gonzales, Mighty Mouse, or Goofy. Skulls and snakes were regularly popular, as were fire-breathing dragons. Ladies in varying levels of dress were also popular, but they were available in too many other formats to make the inked version too popular, at least for me. As long as we're talking moi, guess I should say that 'present', instead of 'available.' Available makes it sound like I had some measure of success, or something... Sheesh.

One guy had such a fascination with spiders and webs that he got both elbows and a good portion of his arms covered in webs. I kind of thought that was a prison thing...

Another guy got a Bud Light label-lookin' tattoo. On his ass. Long night, that one...

My favorite, however, was a variation of the 'Freedom' tattoo, except with the unusual spelling of 'Fredome'. Thus the lesson was learned, either get the work done in the states, or be really sure of your spelling abilities.



karla (threadbndr) said...

Yep, the Marine!Goth has been in for two years and JUST made it under the wire with his moto tat. His DI at MCRD had pretty close to full sleeve tats, and an absolutely beautiful "Semper Fi" down the forearm that showed when he saluted (especially a sword present arms).

I don't like the new regs - seems unnatural to have Marines with no visible tats.

Hammer said...

Marines should be able to have any tat they want. Seems getting one while drinking is a little risky.

Anonymous said...

One can only speculate on the laughs that the misspelled tattoo caused..."Fred O Me"...couldn't help myself...sorry.

Presenting a "regulation Marine appearance" is one thing, but this civilian can't help but wonder if the officers who thought up the new regulations:
1. don't have tattoos;
2. have "unique" tattoos they now regret;
3. don't even come close to understanding the importance of this rite of passage.

It's a sorry world when the Corps caves in to the P.C. nonsense that now passes for sound thought.

Murphy said...

I'm with y'all on the tats, kind of bothers me about the whole old enough to kill, but not enough to get ink where you want, but then again I figure that 1) It'll give me something else to rant about re: Back in the OLDE CORPS, and 2) Marines have been kickin' ass and taking names for a long while now, I'm sure they'll do just fine, tats or no.

Old NFO said...

Ah yes... The ol spelling problem... I've seen a number of WESTPAC tats that have some 'very' interesting spellings... My personal favorite was a female enlisted you got what she thought was kanji for good luck just above her butt. A friend in then JMSDF saw it and about died laughing. The kanji really said the equivilent of nice ass...

CrankyProf said...

Around here, the spiderweb on the elbow tat is a gang marking.

All of the Cranky Brothers have tats showcasing their various military leanings. USMC and Navy dominate -- my brother Peter has the Angry Navy Goat on one forearm.