A Tattooed Veteran Tells His War Stories Through His Body Art
In Ink Spot, Amy Price stops strangers in Dallas to shoot, and learn about, their body art.
Photos by Amy Price
Not every tattoo has to be some artistic masterpiece. Some tattoos, as rough as they are, tell trying stories of where their wearers have been and the experiences they have gone through. Earl Ward, a 63 year-old photographer and retired Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Afghanistan army veteran, is hard to ignore on campus at Brookhaven.
While not heavily tattooed, Ward is always eager to share his knowledge and stories about his military life through his ink. Tattooed on his left forearm is a cross with army gear strewn in front of it with the text "remember" above the design. The tattoo was created as a memorial for eight fallen soldiers in his troop.
"One of my sergeants designed this and we put 'remember' above it and we got a tattoo artist to tattoo the twelve of us and then we destroyed the stencil," he explains. The artist, who was part of another combat team, had his wife send his tattoo equipment overseas specifically for the piece.
Ward is quiet literally a living-breathing-walking map. What makes Ward's tattoos extra special is that they come from eight different countries outside the United States.
Displayed on Ward's opposing forearm is a brightly colored dragon he received in Japan. The dragon was hand-tattooed in the old-fashioned technique of Tabori. The ancient technique involves two tools; one thick bamboo stick with needles at the end wrapped in silk and a mallet used to pound the needles by hand into the skin. "You better believe it hurt like a banshee," he told me. "I was sitting there crying for four hours."
Ward, who has an affinity for mythical creatures, is planning on getting another dragon from his friends at Cat Tattoo. But he is most proud of his adventures among the 84-plus countries he's visited. "Anyone can get a post card from a foreign country or pick up a shot glass, I have something that will last my entire life I'm going to be buried with these guys."