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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    David, who asked that is face not be shown because he is with Special Operations, has his left arm almost entirely covered in tattoos. The designs include rays of light, angels and religious parables about the narrow and wide gates to heaven and hell.
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    David, 26, received his first tattoo when he was 18. He had it covered up with this large cross, which was created to look like it was carved in "old worn wood."
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Rob Laffery, 35, is a tattoo artist at Performance Tattoo in Fayetteville, N.C., and knows where the sensitive spots are for his needle. He had one spot marked on his own wrist. "Yeah, that was a painful spot," he deadpanned.
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Jeffrey York, a veteran of the Afghan war who is currently assigned to Ft. Bragg, says he wears this statement from Theodore Roosevelt on his leg because it's about "people on the outside judging without being in the arena."
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    "As my travel and experiences grew, the tattoos grew with them," says Ray, another soldier who's in Special Operations. The burning sun represents life and the tree without leaves represents death. Ray said he saw this tree -- a "perfect tree in the middle of Baghdad" -- and the Kurdish writing below it translates to "I make my living by my weapons."
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Rob Laffery tattoos soldiers at Performance Tattoo in Fayetteville, N.C., which is close to Ft. Bragg. Trends come and go, and lately "zombies are big," he said. He's been tattooing tribal prints for 18 years.
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Amy Smith, 29, is currently based at Ft. Bragg and has been in the Army for four years. "No place I've been [stationed] has winters so I'm bringing the snow with me," said the native of upstate New York referring to the large blue and black snowflakes tattooed across her back. Smith described the two colorful patterns on her arm as "two finials of fire and smoke--the ying and yang."
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    "I wanted my family tattooed on me, but I didn't want a list of names," saidChristina Dion, 33, public affairs specialist at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. So she tattooed the Chinese zodiac characters of her three children's birth years (the years of the snake, ox and goat) onto her back. "They're my everything. They're it. The hard work, determination, motivation and drive. The suck-it-up attitude because I don't want them to have to suck it up. I didn't have the easiest life. I don't want them to grow up like I did."
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Rob Laffery, 35, tattoos soldiers at Performance Tattoo in Fayetteville, N.C., which is close to Ft. Bragg. Trends come and go. Nowadays "zombies are big," he said. "Ouch" is tattooed on his inner wrist: "Yeah that was a painful spot," he deadpanned.
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    A soldier who did not want his face shown or be identified beyond his first name of Zach because he is in a special operations had his daughter's feet photocopied from her birth certificate and tattooed onto his arm. "So if I'm not around my family I have a piece of them with me," the 23-year-old soldier from Ashville, N.C., said.
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Zach also paid homage to his wife on his arm. "She has a classic beauty to me and I wanted to represent that in a pin-up... And she's so firey. That's why she's on the ammo and the big ol bomb. She's my bombshell," he said smiling.
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Zach paid tribute to American soldiers who came before him with his "War Through The Ages" tat on his right calf. "Being in the military has brought an extreme respect for those in the past. It's my belief that (they) shaped our country into what it is," Zach said.
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints Psalm 116:15," is tattooed across Zach's chest. "Every person that dies is important to God," he said.
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    "Forgive me father for I have sinned," tatted on Zach's upper left arm "is a recognition that I'm not a perfect human being. I don't live as religiously as I should, but I try to help other people and be an all-around good person, father, friend and husband."
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Albert Lenowicz, 29, of Syracuse, N.Y., said he wanted the large black octopus with bright green eyes - which now resides on his left leg - "just for fun."
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Lenowicz tattooed wings onto his ankle. The philosophy and religion major in college said the wings represent his "search for wisdom and knowledge."
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  • Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military Body Ink

    Lenowicz's intricately curved brown tree and bold green leaves tattoo, together with the Tibetan Cross, represents "knowledge and wisdom," he said.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Mark Sands, 39, is an Army veteran and tattoo artist at Performance Tattoo in Fayetteville, N.C. Sands said soldiers usually receive tattoos immediately before and immediately after their deployments. "They get more memorial stuff on the way back," he said. Sands will never forget the soldier who wanted a memorial tattoo on his back to include the names of 18 friends who died during deployment. The soldier was still wearing his in-patient bracelet from a mental health care facility. "It seems like he needed to get it done," Sands said, explaining that sometimes tattoos help soldiers heal.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Sgt. Keith Stickney, 25, of Salem, N.H., received a Silver Star for his actions during the insurgent attack on COP Keating in Afghanistan in which eight U.S. soldiers died and 22 were wounded. Before that, Stickney lost two friends in combat during a tour in Iraq. The deaths prompted him to get the memorial "All Gave Some, Some Gave All" tatooed on his back. "I wanted to do it to honor everyone," he said. "It's a way to express what's on your mind. You don't have to show it all of the time, but it will always be there with you."
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Jeremy Blake, 32, is a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq and lost several close friends. Part of his memorial tat is a passage from the Bible that states, "A greater love hath no man than this that a man may lay down his life for his friends." Says Blake, "I'm probably the most non-religious person, so go figure that what needed to be said was in the gospel according to John."
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    The tattoos on Jeremy Blake's right forearm include a fellow soldier's drawing of an M16, plus a passage from the Bible. On his chest is the inscription, "Suffer Patiently" because, he explains, "You can do nothing to bring your friends back."
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Bradley and Chris Mace got lips tattoos on their hips to honor their brother Stephan Mace, who died at the age of 21 during the battle at COP Keating. The lips are duplicates of tattoos that Stephan had on him. In addition, the brothers got larger memorial tattoos on their backs.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    "That's my brother. It really means a lot to me," said Chris Mace, who is in the Army and will deploy to Afghanistan this summer. "I wanted something on my body that would show my respect for him so I decided to get that. When you want to put something on your body, you want it to mean something. My brother means a lot to me."
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Sgt. Zachary Koppes, 22, of Wooster, Ohio, and his friend Justin Gallegos had planned to get matching tattoos after their deployment in Afghanistan, but Gallegos was killed in the battle of COP Keating before they got the chance. Koppes received his cherry blossoms tat in honor of his friend.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Koppes, a Cavalry Scout with the 361sth Cavalry out of Fort Carson, got the cherry blossoms on his right forearm as he had planned with his pal Justin Gallegos, who died in combat. "I honored my commitment to him," Koppes said.
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Jeffrey Yurk, 34, currently assigned to Ft. Bragg, was in the infantry in Salerno, Afghanistan, in 2005 when he made a deal with a friend: When they returned to the U.S. they would get their arms tattooed in camouflage. "He died, so I went," York said simply about his decision to get the tattoo for the both of them. York's tattoo artist copied an Army basic training shirt to create an accurate design.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Apache pilot Brandon Gress, 35, used to run a lot, so he had green eyes tattoed on the back of his legs while in his 20s. He recently added the Celtic patterns on his back because "My wife liked it. She's Irish."
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Jeff Roberts, a 37-year-old Blackhawk pilot said, "My wife said she would divorce me if I got a full sleeve [tattoo.] But I'm still married."
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    "Homeward" detail from Jeff Roberts' full sleeve tattoo.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    A spark plug detail from Jeff Roberts' full sleeve tattoo. Roberts said unlike most people who have a deeply personal story to share about their tattoos, "I'm shallow. I just think it's cool."
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Jeff Roberts said the Marine Corps symbol is the most meaningful on his tattooed arm. "That's where I grew up in the military," he said.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Eddie Williams, 27, who works in operations for a Medevac unit, allowed a tattoo artist to tat a eagle on him because he wanted the practice. "So I let him do it," Williams said.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Rocky Blair, 32, a flight medic, allowed his left arm to be a canvas for tattoo artist Marcus Dove. Dove, Blair says, drew the entire tattoo - including a rattlesnake and a skull - freehand.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    For Paul, a 31-year-old special operations soldier, the death dealing skeleton is a stark reminder that "Death is always out there looming." He got the tat as a reminder after a detainee tried to kill him in Iraq. The treasure chest represents his wife and daughter. "The treasure chest is what I was trying to go home to," he said.
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Former Army Ranger Shawn, who declined to give his last name, favors a tattoo that features his wife as a pirate riding a shark. Shawn, who is 42 and now a military advisor, says his wife "loves this picture and shows it off when I wear a t-shirt. 'Oh that's me!'" she tells people.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Shawn is a walking memorial to three of his friends who have died.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Spc. Mike Winne, 21, Spc. Tyler Yuhas, and Pvt. Cody Hill, a Blackhawk crew for a Medevac unit, keep their tattoos under wraps. Until they are asked.
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  • The Tale of the Tat: U.S. Military and Their Body Ink

    Winne "Death Before Dishonor" tat, he says is in reaction to his feeling that "There's no honor in people anymore." Yuhas says his two birds and a partially obscured star is his "watch my back tattoo." Hill's Latin tattoo translates to, "For him who desires peace, prepare for war."
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • Fabulous Afghan 'Tats' and Stories Behind Them

    Sgt. Addison Garcia, 23, San Antonio, Texas, got a tattoo of the Virgin de Guadeloupe four years ago when he was about to be deployed to Iraq. He is now at FOB Wright in Asad Abad, Afghanistan. His grandfather had fought in World War II with a Virgin de Guadeloupe tattoo so Garcia got it in honor of him.
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • Fabulous Afghan 'Tats' and Stories Behind Them

    Major T.G. Taylor, 36, got his tattoo when he about to start his sophomore year at West Point in the summer of 1992. "I never wanted to forget the childlike joy that I experienced when riding a bicycle," he said. Now he has the joy of being public relations officers for Task Force Mountain Warrior at FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • Fabulous Afghan 'Tats' and Stories Behind Them

    Bo Andrew Dewitz, 25, got his tattoo of a thorn bush, a snake and a rose "for my deployment and my little girl." Each of the thorns represents the number of months deployed. The blooming rose represents his daughter Grace, age 1. Dewitz, of Rochester, Minn., is based in FOB Wright in Asad Abad, Afghanistan.
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  • Fabulous Afghan 'Tats' and Stories Behind Them

    Pfc. Ethan Rawls, 20, was talked into getting a tattoo by his brother-in-law so he chose a unique one -- bullet holes. "Because it was strange and no one had it," he explains. Rawls, who is from Fayetteville, N.C., is a gunner for a Route Clearance Patrol for 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and is deployed at FOB Wright in Asad Abad, Afghanistan.
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • Fabulous Afghan 'Tats' and Stories Behind Them

    Staff Sgt. Nicholas Denning's son Caelan drew a picture of himself, so Denning, 28, had the drawing tattooed on his leg about a year ago. "I wanted something meaningful," said Denning. And his son loves it, too. "He thinks it's the greatest." Denning is a combat engineer based at FOB Wright in Asad Abad, Afghanistan.
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • Fabulous Afghan 'Tats' and Stories Behind Them

    Spec. Chris Guarnieri, 26, of Las Vegas, says he got his nurse tattoo before his deployment to Afghanistan in April 2009. His reason was simple: "So I'm well-taken care of," he said with a smile. "I've been blown up twice and I'm still okay."
    Karen Russo/ABC News
  • tattoos

    They cover arms, legs, hands, backs, necks and other unmentionable spots across soldiers' bodies. Old and new, obscure and absurd, done drunken, though hopefully sober, tattoos are among the most common forms of self-expression seen on military bases. "The Army's always going to be a part of my life," said Kristen Morley, 19, Pleasant Hill, Ohio. Morley and her best friend got matching pin-up girl tattoos. The one of her bicep is of a woman sitting on a Hellfire missile - the same missile on a Kiowa helicopter for which she is a crew chief.
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • tattoos

    "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today" is the script beneath Kristen Morley's tattoo of a pin-up girl riding a Hellfire missile.
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  • tattoos

    Sgt. Chris Schnier, 24, a forward observer from Greenville, N.C., has one in English and one in Pashto. The one written in Pashto translates (he hopes) to "You killed my brothers. I will kill you." Freedom? He says it's one word but has multiple meanings for everyone.
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • tattoos

    Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Porcaro, 27, from Punta Gorda, Fla., has combined a common Army expression with the Afghan province of Zabul. "Zabulsh*t" is for all the dumb stuff we have to do in training and dumb stuff continued when we got here," he says. But, he added,"You might be going through some Zabulsh*t, but there's always better times ahead."
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  • tattoos

    For Richard Jernigan, 28, a contractor on Kandahar Air Field, his "US Army Southern Pride" roughly means: "We'll gladly kick the sh*t out of you and bring you flowers in the hospital."
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  • tattoos

    Staff Sgt. Eric Wood, 35, has been in the Army for 17 years. "Outsiders" is nickname for his platoon which he has been with for seven years. He is currently stationed in Qalat Province, Afghanistan.
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  • tattoos

    Specialist Charles Hemlow, 24, is an infantryman with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade."I believe everybody has good and bad sides and intentions in life," said Hemlow. "Being at war makes you do thing you don't necessarily want to do, but you have to save yourself and your brother." On his left shoulder is a portrait of heaven with guardian angels, St. Michael and the Pearly Gates. On his right shoulder is his impression of hell, full of dead bodies. He had the tattoos done in New Hampshire and Ft. Bragg, N.C.
    Karen Russo/ABC
  • tattoos

    Contractor Doug Baker, 39, of Richmond, Va., said he used to jump out of airplanes with the 82nd Airborne. His "Jump Master Wings" represents that time in his life.
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