Military tattoos can serve many different purposes. Whether for memorial and remembrance or for support and a ring of freedom, showing your patriotic pride can be a significant way of coping with the loss of a fallen hero or honoring a lifelong Brotherhood.
The United States Armed Forces consists of the Army, Marines, Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force. Second only in size to the People’s Liberation Army of China, the forces encompass a population of over 1,458,697 active military personnel.
While the lure of ink can be a rite of passage for anyone enlisting, new regulations greatly restrict the visibility and placement of tattoos. For current tattoo regulations, be sure to check the recruiting office of each military branch as they all differ.
Certain body parts, characters, indecent phrases and/or sexual images may not be permissible in the service and are actually subject to removal at the wearer’s expense. So be proud and be smart and perhaps consider getting your tattoo after you’ve served to avoid the possibility of discharge.
1. United States Marine Corps Tattoos
The first to fight, nothing says bravery and loyalty like a Marine. During World War I American Marines were dubbed the “Devil Dogs” by Germany and adopted their unofficial bulldog mascot. The Marines have many logos and symbols that can be interpreted into a meaningful tattoo design. Consider the quote “A few good men” from Marine Capitan William Jones or an Old School American flag tattoo with the phrase “Semper Fi” (Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful”,) or opt for a traditional Marine logo depicted with a globe and eagle to represent their worldwide service. No matter the design the few and the proud are always worth honoring in ink.
2. Navy Tattoos
The largest navy in the world with the largest carrier fleet, the United States Navy logo embodies the spirit of freedom with its American flag clutched by the wrath of an eagle. Anchor tattoos and nautical designs make an obvious choice for those serving time aboard the ship. Consider George Washington’s quote, “Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious” or set sail and track your travel miles with a traditional swallow tattoo. For those that are superstitious, honor an old legend and ink a pig and a fighting rooster on your foot to prevent drowning out at sea.
3. Army Tattoos
In addition to the Army logo, there are many other directions for an Army military tattoo. Consider the Golden Knights parachute team or a memorial tattoo with A Soldier’s Prayer. Camouflage tattoos make a novel choice, whereas a red beret honors all of those that are part of the Airborne Division. Green berets are often paired with skulls and wings to represent the special forces, and dog tags are a perennial Army favorite.
4. Coast Guard Tattoos
For those that serve and protect on our bodies of waters, a Coast Guard tattoo makes an honorable choice. Boats, ships, old school nautical tattoos and mermaids are a befit choice for anyone serving in the USCG. Life preservers, anchors, a Captain’s wheel and even the Coast Guard logo can represent the forces with great honor.
5. Air Force Tattoos
The United States Air Force is our prominent organization of aerial warfare. For some of the most meaningful Air Force tattoo ideas, look to the sky. While bomber planes, wings and jets make a novel choice, don’t forget the angels up there either. Medic tattoos such as the Malta cross are a perfect choice for anyone providing care for their comrades. Consider an Air Force logo tattoo or combine a 9/11 tribute to your piece. Firefighter, flame and star tattoos can all be meaningful to a USAF.