It's a known fact that following service, many members of the U.S. military return home unable to find suitable jobs while simultaneously working through the trauma of past experiences. For these brave men and women, going to war is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the challenges provoked by enlisting. Still, they remain proud to serve our country, as demonstrated by the elaborate and descriptive tattoos sported by veterans.
A unique take on war
In an effort to tell the story of America's brave soldiers, Jason Deitch, former Army medic and military sociologist, created War Ink, which is an exhibit displaying the different chapters of veterans' lives as told through their tattoos. PBS explained that this project is meant to serve as a portal to connect vets, so that they may share their joys and pains.
The photos and stories are available on the organization's website and on display in California, which is home to the largest population of veterans in the country – 2 million of them. Photographer Johann Wolf captured a fragment of the subjects' lives that may be otherwise difficult to bring up in day-to-day conversations because many veterans return from overseas feeling withdrawn and frightened to adapt to a new routine or even find love.
Zakariah Bass enlisted in the Army fresh out of high school after losing both of his parents. He shipped off to training in Georgia and was later deployed to Iraq, where he encountered harsh circumstances in the Ramadi Area. His tattoos tell the story of his life.
It's not the tattoos that hurt
Photographed in a baby blue and white checkered shirt, Bass' arms boast an American flag and a heart just on the other side of his left elbow.
Splayed across Tracey Cooper-Harris' back is an orange and red phoenix accompanied by Arabic script that's a passage from Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise."
"It symbolizes that, even though it felt like everything was falling apart," said Cooper-Harris. "I was still able to rise out of the chaos. Every time I feel like I'm about to crash and burn, I still rise."
"His tattoo demonstrates the hurdles soldiers must overcome after war."
His tattoo demonstrates the hurdles soldiers must overcome after war. It is typically rare for these men and women to open up about their harrowing experiences, which is what ultimately makes this exhibit all the more special.
To walk a mile in the shoes of a soldier, visit the exhibit's virtual flip book, which is organized based on four chapters "We Were You," "Changed Forever," "Living Scars" and "Living Not Surviving."
Overcoming the looming challenges of going to war can be a different experience for everyone. While some veterans may find solace in their tattoos, others may despise their body art because it serves as a reminder of combat. Soldiers who'd like to move on don't have to bear the scars on war because today they can get laser tattoo removal.
Over 45 million US adults* are living with tattoos, but now permanent ink can be a thing of the past. PicoSure® is the world's latest breakthrough technology in laser tattoo removal providing faster results in fewer treatments. Visit www.picosurear.wpengine.com to learn more and find a PicoSure Practitioner near you. * Source: Harris Interactive, 2012