Story behind the ink

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brigitte N. Brantley-Sisk
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
In the military, much emphasis is placed on conformity and following the regulations, individuals have chosen to alter their bodies with meaningful text and images.

Although there are basic tattoo guidelines, Airmen can express their individuality through displaying their tattoos.

Some people choose visually striking imagery, such as multicolored peacock feathers , while others go for a simpler effect, such as a phrase or symbol.

One tattooed individual, 1st Lt. Heather Takacs, 23rd Wing protocol officer, chose a tattoo that although simple in appearance, has a more complex story behind it.

"I have the words, 'Faith, Courage, Love,' on my right foot," said the lieutenant. "When my mom was diagnosed with cancer last January, she was told she wouldn't live until June, which is when my graduation from Officer Training School was. However, she did live and so we got matching tattoos to help memorialize what got us through the hard times."

Many Airmen have more than one tattoo, as is the case of one NCO who has many and plans to get more in the future.

"The first time I ever felt a needle, I was in fourth grade and got a vaccine on my backside; I decided I didn't mind the pain," said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Solano, 23rd WG Legal Office military justice paralegal. "Now, I have six tattoos and most of them are connected to my family. I have a nautical symbol on my arm, which represents always being able to find my way back to them, no matter where I am in the world."

Sergeant Solano also has a wedding ring tattoo on his finger and his son's initials on his arm.

However, both individuals above make sure they are within the appropriate standards. Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Dress and Personal Appearance," states "Excessive tattoos and brands will not be exposed or visible (includes visible through the uniform) while in uniform. Excessive is defined as any tattoo/brands exceeding one-quarter of the exposed body part and those above the collarbone when wearing an open collar uniform."

Many Team Moody members have a meaningful "story behind the ink" that range from a representing a time in their lives to symbolizing loved ones.

Airman 1st Class Christopher Safis, 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
"I have three tattoos but I got my first one when I was 17. I have a Chinese symbol which symbolizes loyalty; I'm really close with some of the other guys in my squadron so we got similar tattoos to represent what we felt. I also have a shark on my right shoulder. It's like the tattoo my dad had when he was alive."

Airman 1st Class Jeff Warner, 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
"I've got five tattoos now and the difference in them represents the continual struggle between good and evil. They range from a pair of hands in prayer to a skull inside of a spade. A couple of mine also represent the irony of luck; I don't believe in it but I do believe everything happens for a reason. I love the tattoos I have and can't wait to get more."

Airman 1st Class Marvin Davis, 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

"My tattoos center around religion and the memory of my mother, who passed away when I was 10 years old. The first verse I have, John 3:16, was her favorite verse and it is now mine. The other phrase I have, 'For this too shall perish,' is a play on the similar verse from the Bible but I feel it's more applicable to our physical bodies. It's important to remember that when we are gone, all the money and material possessions we had won't mean a thing."

Robert Blakely, contractor
"To me, each of my five tattoos represents a place in time. It's similar to hearing a song on the radio in that it brings you back to the place you were in your life when you got it. I got the two on my arms when I was 23 to actually cover up street tattoos I got when I was 11. My last one I got when I was the 36. I got the massive prehistoric tiger 'ripping its way out of me' because I wanted large tattoo."

Chris Andruschkevich, personal trainer
"I got all of my three tattoos while in my 30s; I got them so late in life because I wanted to make sure of what I really wanted. I chose Chinese script for two of mine because it's an attractive art form. The dragon on my leg represents strength and power and the orb it's holding has the sign for the year of the monkey, which symbolizes my son. I also have the date of my wedding tattooed around my ring finger. I plan to get many more and might even have full sleeves one day."

Senior Airman Haley Ward, 23rd Comptroller Squadron
"I've only got one tattoo and I got it because I had to outdo my mom, who has a tiny one on her foot. The tattoo artist I chose would only do original work, so I centered a few things around the wings of an angel. I have a rose representing my sister, a cross representing my Christian beliefs and a four-leaf clover representing my Irish heritage. I don't plan on getting anymore- the pain was pretty bad."

Airman 1st Class Kindra Milligan, 23rd Comptroller Squadron
"I got the tattoos to represent my heritage. I got my first tattoo when I was 16 and it's a picture of the Hawaiian islands. The other is a meaningful phrase in the Chickasaw language. I plan on getting more and right now I am leaning toward getting the 'Starry Night' painting by Van Gogh."

Airman 1st Class Lee Rimell, 23rd Comptroller Squadron
"I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It's the word 'London,' which is where I am from; I will actually have my U.S. citizenship within a few months. The other ones are two dates: the date I was born and the date my mother died. I plan to get as many more tattoos as I possibly can within regulations."