• Decorated Marine Denied Reenlistment, Service Doesn’t Like His Tattoos

    A decorated Marine has been denied re-enlistment for running afoul of tattoo policy.

    The Army recently updated its tattoo policy, but the Marine Corps is still behind, relying on strict regulations stemming back to 2010. (RELATED: Army Will Strike Hated Tattoo Policy From Regulations)

    This means that Sgt. Daniel Knapp of Camp Lejeune’s 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, is forced to remain in the United States while members of his unit deploy to Europe.

    Knapp isn’t pleased with the recent turn of events.

    “When I was in Afghanistan,” Knapp told Marine Corps Times, “my tattoos never stopped me from shooting anyone, and they never made me more of a target. They never stopped me from keeping Marines safe. On patrol nothing ever happened because of my tattoos.”

    The tattoos he had at the time were approved based on waivers in 2009, but after Afghanistan, Knapp decided to get a pair of crossed rifles and the numbers 0311 tattooed on his arm, which signal a Marine rifleman designation. That decision eliminated the possibility of reenlistment because of the size and placement of the ink. It doesn’t matter that Knapp counts as a Tier 1 marine, a category populated by troops in the top 10 percent of performance. It also doesn’t matter that Knapp has served two deployments, earning promotions, a valor award and a waiver endorsed by his command.

    The service is still not interested in seeing him reenlist.

    Senior officials maintain that tattoos detract from the military bearing and threaten the ability of troops to find work in the civilian sector after their time in the military ends. Army officials, however, seem to have relented. In early April, Chief of Staff Ray Odierno stated that while offensive tattoos are still forbidden, other restrictions as to the size, shape and location of the ink have been removed.

    “Society is changing its view of tattoos,” Odierno said, “and we have to change along with that. It makes sense. Soldiers have grown up in an era when tattoos are much more acceptable and we have to change along with that.”

    But this is the Marine Corps, not the Army, and so for now, Knapp still counts as being unfit to reenlist. He will not consider moving to the Army to finish out his career.

    There’s still hope for Knapp. On March 24, Marine officials mentioned the possibility of revisiting the tattoo policy, and on April 16, a spokesman for the sergeant major stated that the review was complete. At this point in time, the outcome of the review is not clear.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter


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