Army may ban tattoos for soldiers

Tattoos below elbows, knees, above neckline would not be allowed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Strict new rules over tattoos, grooming and uniforms for soldiers have been approved by the Secretary of the Army and are under one last review.

New Army recruits will not be allowed to have tattoos that show below the elbows and knees or above the neckline.

The U.S. Army says a uniform is more than the clothes soldiers wear, but also the ink on their skin, and they want soldiers tattoo free.

"You should not penalize someone for wanting to fight for their country and their beliefs just because they have a tattoo," said Edwin Kruer, who's been a tattoo artist for 10 years.

The Army's potential changes to rules affect makeup, fingernail polish, hair styles, body piercings, the length of sideburns and tattoos.

Current soldiers may be grandfathered in, but all soldiers will still be barred from having tattoos that have curse words, are racist, sexist or extremist.

"It violates a person's individual freedoms, in my thought, and that's my personal opinion," Kruer said.

So how will this rule be regulated? Once implemented, soldiers will sit down with their unit leaders and "self identify" each tattoo.

Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy.

Kruer says his parlor gives military members tattoos daily.

"We have a lot of military clientele, so doing that would actually probably hinder more than just the military. It's going to hinder small business," Kruer said.

The Army says it is doing this because it wants soldiers to stand out but because of their achievements, not because of the way they look.

"That's a bit strict on some poor fella who one day may be asked to give his life for his country," Phil Althorpe wrote on Channel 4's Facebook page.

"The military is about giving up your rights so others can have (theirs)," Robert Williams wrote. "Uniformity and discipline. If we understood it and taught it. A better world this would be. I have given up my rights and understand it."

The rule would only affect those in the Army. Other branches of the military have their own grooming and appearance rules.

The changes could become policy in 30 to 60 days.

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