On the front lines

I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.

Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

–William Tecumseh Sherman

Before I begin this post, I want to take a moment to address some criticisms that may occur in the comment section.  The following post is not meant as a political statement in any way.  Nor is it an endorsement of any armed conflict.  This is about those people who choose to do what they believe in, regardless of the thoughts of others.

I don’t think in any period of documented history that there has been a time where the entire globe was at peace.  Wars have been waged since the dawn of mankind, and will probably continue on long after everyone reading this is gone.  While the reason wars occur vary widely, there is one constant in every conflict: the soldiers.  The men and women who are either forced into service, born and raised in it, or volunteer for it, all have one thing in common.  These men and women all put their lives on the line for a greater cause.  Granted we have the luxury of looking back on the past and are able to place our own judgement on the validity of the causes, but in the moment, these people took a stand when ordered.

I realize that ModBlog has a global audience, but for the time being I’m going to be focusing on the US soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan.  These brave soldiers have chosen to put their lives on the line for their country.  Whether you believe that the war is justified, or should be stopped entirely, for the time being, these people are out there facing death each day.  I know there are a lot of members (former and active) of the armed forces that read ModBlog, and hopefully some will be willing to share their stories with us.  The reason I say this is because TIME Magazine recently did a photo essay on a number of troops stationed in Afghanistan.  The one thing these men have in common is their love of tattoos.  I hesitate to claim they love other mods, simply because I’m positive military regulations prevent them from possessing certain modifications such as piercings, and there’s no way to ascertain their personal feelings regarding modifications.  That said, these men are on the front lines every day, and the shadow of death is constantly overhead.  Here’s how some of them cope with their feelings about the situation they’re in.


Sergeant Paul Williams, 20

During a recent embed with Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan, photographer Mauricio Lima asked the men to share the stories behind their tattoos. Williams’ back features two bulldogs, animals frequently used to represent “Devil Dogs,” a nickname commonly applied to the Marines. The words on his shoulders are from the Dire Straits song “Brothers in Arms.”

Like I said earlier, no matter your personal feelings towards the current conflict in Afghanistan, there are men and women out there choosing to put their lives at risk for what they believe in, and for their friends and family back home.  So take a moment to think about these soldiers, the people, who are standing up and living their lives how they want to.  The way I see it, these soldiers are not only modifying their bodies to be who they want to be, but they’ve taken things a step further than a lot of other people who modify themselves; they have completely transformed their bodies and minds to become their own ideal.  The way I see it, even if you don’t agree with the war, these soldiers are brave in not only standing up for what they believe in, but also for taking extreme steps to modify their minds and bodies.

19 thoughts on “On the front lines

  1. I was once a soldier and now suffer from PTSD and some other ailments. Although these are a direct result of war, I would not hesitate to do the things I did. People that are against the war should thank soldiers for giving them that choice.

  2. Im actually currently unable to join the marines as a result of how many tattoos i have 🙁

  3. My little sister is serving in Iraq right now and quite a few of her fellow soldiers have piercings that they wear jewelery in. It’s technically against regulations but there are bosses out there looking the other way. So Viva la Mods on Soldiers!

  4. While I’m not big on the war (or any war), I do have tremendous respect for the soldiers. There is no way I could even begin to convince myself into that.

  5. “This is about those people who choose to do what they believe in, regardless of the thoughts of others.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, soldiers, those whom disregard other lives.

  6. Let me start off by saying, I was really reluctant to open this, just because of the expected negative comments, but I am so,so,so please that there are none 🙂

    My husband is a US ARMY Flight medic for 101st airborne and is heavily modified with Tattoos. I am so glad that you decided to recognize the soldiers, but also everyone please remember, for every soldier there is a family behind missing him. We have two boys, a 3 year old who is special needs, and a newborn (1 month), which sadly, my husband was not able to come home for the birth because he is currently serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

    I take great pride in knowing my husband saves a life (sometimes WAY more) every single day. He picks up soldiers from all branches but also civilians harmed in the line of fire, and yes, that includes the children.

    Thank you so much for posting this entry, it made my day 🙂

  7. Also, thought i’d post a link. This photo is a picture of the “clean up” but the tattooed arm is my husband’s.

    Also feel free to flip through, there’s some very moving photos. WARNING some are gorey.

    (Rob, feel free to delete if linkage is not allowed on blog comments).

  8. it seems that when discussing war, two urges immediately arise – to condemn the brutality of war and then in the same breath, to praise it’s glory.

  9. i turned 17 the day they invaded baghdad… just a few months later and was in the suck before i was 19.. i actually turned 19 half way through my tour.. i made it home safely and decided that if i can give that much energy or effort to one thing, then the next time i do, i should dod something for me… and i did… i found an apprenticeship and continued to push my limtis to the artist i am today… its crazy when people see me and i tell them i went to iraq.. i dont think that surprises them as much as the fact i went with the military.. i was an 18 year old cpl in country.. fun stuff… now i have a daughter (that i didnt have when i went), my ears made it up to 1 1/2 inch… i am completely coverd in tattoos… i feel i earned the right to do this to myself by fighting for a year… as of last night… they announced the end of the war……

  10. Wes, i am so glad atleast one person looked at my link (Which i double posted because my computer spazzed on me =P)

    regardless on anyone’s thought on the war, I think it is important to remember that it is just that, WAR. Gorey, tragic, scary, war. For the people in it and the people surrounding it.

    I want to also make it clear that not all soldiers over there shoot at people. My husband’s Helicopter has no weapons on it, and they carry no weapons. They are shot at constantly and have no way of “defending” themselves in combatives, unless it comes down to hand to hand.

    There was another press release of my husband’s unit, i tried to look for but could not find, with my husband’s crew chief, looking out the window of the helicopter sobbing and the caption was “Sometimes they cannot save them all” The picture is embedded into my mind….and sadly, my husband lives with the losses of this war every day.

    Please everyone keep our soldiers in your thoughts, regardless of your opinions of the war and politics of it.

  11. not a prob lauren… war is a sad messy neccesary part of life… and your right… not everyone over there carry weapons… i cant say was one of those people, but self defense is your only option there… maybe not, but it sure as hell feels like it when your receiving fire from all sides…

  12. Oh, i was in no way saying my husband is “better” than anyone who carries a weapon. I just wanted to clarify because “chokehold” said “I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, soldiers, those whom disregard other lives.” And I wanted to elaborate that my husband does the exact oposite, he preserves human life without biased of who lives or who dies, he does he job regardless of what he feels about the person he’s treating.

    My Dad was a kiowa Fighter Pilot in OIF, did two tours. I have a great deal of respect for ALL service members, not just the medical guys 😉

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