Army medic Clint McCullough’s memorial tattoo honors the memory of three friends and fellow medics who died in Iraq. to have a more permanent reminder.” Not everyone feels that way. Outside of Kingpin Tattoos, a blond soldier named Mac McConnell sits on a bench and smokes a cigarette. He’s got an upside-down cross tattooed across his bicep, his reaction to being force-fed religion in the Army. “The only time we get a break during basic training is to get to go to church:’ he says. “And that pisses me off, since I’m not religious. If people can’t figure out right and wrong for themselves, they’re pathetic. It’s a way of not thinking.” fourth type of military tattoo stands as a reminder of the human cost of the Iraq war. All the tattoo shops in Killeen now do dozens of memorial tattoos each month; the most common is the iconic image of boots, machine gun, and Kevlar helmet. Memorial tattoos honor friends and comrades who’ve died in warthough not always by enemy fire. William Flood is a 20-year-old interrogator just back from Iraq with a memorial tattoo on his ankle. He says it’s dedicated to two close friends, Wesley and Alfredo, neither of whom died in combat. “Wesley was nice and quiet most of the time,” Flood says. “But he could get wild and have a good time. Then one day over there, he committed suicide without warning. I have no idea why. He wasn’t showing any signs. It pissed me off because I wasn’t expecting it. And then other soldiers started joking about it, which made me even more upset.” Flood was still reeling from Wesley’s death when he heard another of his closest friends had been killed on R&R, in a car crash. “It just seemed so hard to believe he says. “It didn’t even hit me until I got back.” One of the first things he did when he returned was go to the tattoo shop and bring that pain to the surface. Others have lists of the dead on their bodies. As Artist Toby Fry finishes Army medic Clint McCullough’s tattoo, the shop has closed, and everyone else has left. Fry fills in the dark wings, and the drop of blood, and above it he writes the name of McCullough’s unit, “Blood Angels.” Below that, he writes the names of three of McCullough’s fellow medics who died in Iraq: Dan, Frank, and John. “The world is at a huge loss because Dan’s not with us anymore McCullough says, getting visibly choked up. “He was an amazing person, an awesome friend, and one of the greatest medics I’ve ever met. He almost made his 26th birthday.” The tattoo takes a couple hours to complete, giving McCullough time to talk about each of the guys on his back how they lived and how they died. He says the memorial tattoo is a way to keep the memory of his fallen friends alive. “You carry a lot of baggage as a soldier,” he says. “Losing guys like that. So I just decided to do something external the rest of the world can see:’ Michael May is a writer and public radio reporter living in Austin. “You carry a lot of baggage as a soldier. Losing guys like that. So I Just decided to do something external the rest of the world can see.” Army medic Clint McCullough MARCH 21, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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