» andy wolf – awolf@my.apsu.edu

When I was 16, I got my first tattoo. Luckily, my parents were getting a divorce, so nobody seemed to notice. I eventually got more, each tattoo drawn by myself or my sister.

Each piece was a symbol of an era I felt was important to remember. During the Iraq War, I tattooed my name, Social Security number and blood type to my chest so my remains could be identified in the event I was blown up or executed by potential captors.

I acquired more tattoos: memorials of fallen brothers, battles fought and awards earned. But like any career in life, my military service came to an end. The uniform came off; the skin did not.

The very next week and 20 tattoos later, I made my way to the Kentucky State Police headquarters.

I had acquired an impressive service record in the past few years and had accumulated a large number of hiring points that set me apart from other candidates.

A few hours later, I stormed out, having not only been rejected, but replaced in line by two less-qualified individuals who were out of shape and who had even openly bragged to the rest of the candidates about cheating on the entry exam.

It wasn’t so much they had something I didn’t; it was I had something they didn’t — tattoos below the elbow.

I marked it down as a loss for the KSP and carried on looking for more ink-friendly departments. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it still resonates with me to this day.

We are usually first judged by our appearances. I look pretty “intimidating” until you actually talk to me. Some people wear piercings and get tattoos to stand out, and some get them to remind them of points in their life. Some tattoos are hand-drawn by the ink-bearer, others are unoriginal designs from a wall.

In a politically-correct society where some people are hired or not hired because of ethnicity, is it so wrong to consider the inkwork needled into the skin of potential candidates, employees or suspects?

While common sense may dictate yes, the resounding answer has and, for quite some time, will continue to be no. When you got that tattoo or piercing, you accepted the responsibility and potential judgment may befall you as a result of it. Is it fair? Probably not. But life isn’t fair, folks. That’s just the way it is.

I wasn’t some kid who just wanted a tattoo. I bore the names and symbols of a time in my life where I can proudly say I stood tall with some of the finest men our country has ever borne and I have no regrets. I’m not the only one.

In previous wars, people wrote about soldiers and “the things they carried.” This generation’s war might as well be called “the skins they carried.”

I accept the potential judgment of a pinup girl bearing my old unit insignia and a sniper rifle. I proudly bear the Latin phrase “Memento Mori” (remember you will die) on my forearm, a reminder of the abuse I suffered as a kid and how only what I do in the present will echo when I am nothing but dust.

When I wake up in the morning and stand in front of the mirror, I see a Combat Infantry Badge — proof I engaged the enemy in close combat — and a tattered American flag to remind me this country is not the same as it used to be.

I know this market makes it even harder to get work. People with real world experience often take a backseat to being hired due to kids with a fresh four-year degree.

The same goes for tattooed and non-tattooed people. Frankly, I know people will be quick to judge me the moment my dress shirt sleeves ride up a little or I have to wear a T-shirt for a physical test.
Someday, someone will take me and be glad they did. After all, my scars prove my worth. TAS