Learning about ‘ink,’ the military

Until recently, I was unaware that the different branches of military had different tattoo policies. The reason this has been brought to my attention is because a couple weeks ago my friend left for basic training, and after a week in she was sent home because of one of her tattoos.

My friend has a handful of tattoos, but the one that got her sent home was a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon that is behind her ear. When I heard her waiver didn’t go through because of that tattoo I thought it was a little unfair, so I started looking into the military tattoo policies that our country has and found that each branch has different requirements.

The one rule that every branch seems to have when it comes to tattoos is that tattoos cannot be “obscene, sexually explicit, and/or advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion or ethnic or national origin.” It also can’t “symbolize affiliation with gangs, supremacist or extremist groups or advocate illegal drug use.” These policies are definitely something I agree with and don’t think are unfair.

I did find, however, that different branches have different policies about sleeves, such as the Marines who don’t allow them, and cosmetic tattoos, such as the Navy who allow those that blend with natural skin tone or enhance natural features.

The policy that got my friend sent home for is a policy that every branch seems to have. That policy prohibits any tattoos or brandings located anywhere on the head, face and neck. I can see that this policy makes sense because these are tattoos that can be seen while in certain uniforms, but I feel when it comes to tattoos such as my friend’s small ribbon behind her ear, there should be some sort of exception.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is awhitefoot@miningjournal.net