On April 30, the Navy released a new tattoo regulation allowing Sailors to get tattoos on their necks, hands and any place except their face.
If a Sailor chooses to get a neck tattoo, it can be no larger than one inch in each direction. Sailors are also allowed to get large tattoos below their sleeves, and they are less limited on where they can receive orders to based on previous tattoo limitations.
Sailors on board USS Nimitz (CVN 68) have started taking advantage of the new tattoo policy and all that it has to offer.
“I just got a sleeve, and the fact that I can do that now and not get in trouble is cool,” said Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Lawrence Shields, Air Department. “It opens the door for Sailors to get the tattoos they want and not have to worry about getting in trouble for it.”
Some Sailors find tattoos painful, but worth it, because their tattoo becomes a permanent part of them.
“There is just something about getting a tattoo,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Ryan Gandy, Nimitz’ Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions president. “Yes, to some it’s painful, but there is just something in you that drives you to bear through it no matter how painful. You know in the end it’s going to be something beautiful and unique that you will be able to share with the world.”
Whether a piece is big, small, hidden or visible, some Sailors will say their tattoo means something to them or reminds them of a significant part of their life.
“A tattoo and its memories could range from a night out with friends to a significant time in your life,” said Gandy. “It all depends on what that tattoo really means to you.”
Though some people look at tattoos on others and may not see the significance behind them, some Sailors think of them as art.
“I like tattoos because I’ve always appreciated art,” said Shields. “It’s like collecting art, but instead of hanging it up I get to wear them.”
Some people believe that people with tattoos will end up regretting them later on in life, but that doesn’t always apply to every person.
“I like tattoos because they’re expressions of me in the form of art,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Ryan Kirk, Medical Department. “I don’t regret any of them, and I don’t think I will in the future.”
Sailors have been getting tattoos for hundreds of years. Now-a-days it can be challenging to picture Sailors without tattoos, but many people don’t know the history behind some of the iconic ‘Sailor’ tattoos and their meanings.
In the late 17th century Sailors got tattoos such as swallows to symbolize they had sailed 5,000 nautical miles, and anchors after they successfully crossed and returned from the Atlantic Ocean. Some U.S. Navy Sailors today get tattoos, because they want to take part in that history or even because they believe that it’s ‘a tradition’.
“When I think of Sailors I think of people with tattoos,” said Shields. “I see chiefs and senior chiefs with tattoos and I know they have some great stories to tell. Not every person follows ‘the tradition’, but it’s kind of a known thing between Sailors, that tattoos are common among us.”
If a Sailor decides to get a tattoo, they can get what they want with the new regulation as long as it doesn’t involve vulgar language, explicit content, gang related affiliation, or nudity, or denote drug paraphernalia.
Today, the traditional tattoos hold the same significant and historic meanings as always. Sailors continue to grow on that tradition by introducing their own newer and more modern tattoo styles. The new tattoo policy shows that the Navy is willing to adapt and evolve to ensure that its Sailors have equal opportunity for professional and personal growth, with or without tattoos.
Story by MCSN Liana Nichols
Photo by MCSR Cody Deccio