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Military Tattoos

Tattoos are an important part of military traditions. Every branch of the military has different popular tattoos with significant meaning. In this blog, we’ll tell you the most common military tattoos and what they mean! 

U.S. Army 

Before, the Army did not allow any hand or neck tattoos. Now, visible tattoos on any part of the body excluding facial tattoos, have been permitted as long as they are not  “indecent, extremist, sexist or racist.” 

Some popular tattoos include: 

  • Camouflage – Makes for the perfect sleeve.
  • Red Beret – For members of the Airborne Division and usually combined with a skull. It symbolizes the Airborne Division always being ready for fast deployment. 
  • Green Beret – This tattoo belongs to the special forces units. Like the red beret, it is often paired with a skull or wings. 
  • Tanks – In the Army, tanks are built to protect and roll over a surface. This tattoo shows you can do the same. 
  • Field Cross – Used to honor a fallen soldier.

U.S. Navy

The Navy has similar rules to the Army — they allow many tattoos; however, they prohibit any visible tattoos on the face or head. Sexist, racist, or offensive tattoos are not permitted. 

Navy tattoos often include: 

  • Navy Emblem – Technically you need the Navy’s permission to get this tattoo, so service members usually personalize it. 
  • Anchors – Used by sailors who feel a personal tie to the sea. 
  • Nautical Star – Meant to help guide sailors home when lost at sea. 

Air Force

The Air Force restricts tattoos that are obscene or offensive or visible when a service member is in uniform. The Air Force also prohibits tattoos that cover more than 25 percent of the body. 

Common Air Force tattoos include:

  • Wings – Pilots typically combine wings with the Air Force logo.
  • Jets – Fighter jets are usually tattooed with flames.
  • Air Force Logo  – Service members combine the logo with eagles, flags, and other patriotic symbols.


In the Marines, sleeve tattoos are seen as excessive. They do not allow tattoos on the head, neck, hands, or any other part of the body visible when in uniform. Current marines who violate these policies may not be able to advance professionally or able to re-enlist. 

Popular Marine tattoo designs include: 

  • Bulldogs – The unofficial mascot of the Marines.
  • Crash, Fire and Rescue – Members of this unit in the Marines are incredibly proud of their service, so this is a very common tattoo. 
  • USMC – This is tattooed using Old English lettering and typically paired with a flag or banner. 

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard allows service members to have tattoos cover more than 25% of their body; however, their shirt collar must hide visible neck tattoos. They do allow for one ring tattoo on each hand and permanent eyeliner for female service members. 

Coast Guard tattoos include:

  • USCG Emblem – This is the most popular tattoo, which is usually paired with an anchor. 
  • Gun Boats – Often associated with the Coast Guard, making it another common tattoo.
  • Cutters – Small sailing style ships used by the coast guard, so it’s an ideal tattoo for Coasties.
  • Helicopters – usually paired with a coast guard emblem and seen as powerful.
  • Life Preservers – Seen as a rescue style tattoo.

Are you currently an enlisted service member or a veteran? Do you have any of these tattoos? Tell us what they mean to you! 


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