kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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War Paint: Tattoo Culture and the Armed Forces

(more about War Paint here

John Zurich
U.S. Army
1st Battalion, 40th Artillery

I got this tattoo about 10 years after I got home from Vietnam. I just designed it, and had it made and had the guy rip it up when he was done. The camouflage is Vietnam only camouflage because it was the green jungle stuff, the eyes were Agent Orange, at the time it looked really sharp, but all that color's gone now. The skull was Death. I had people say "let it go! you got to let it go! you gotta forget about Vietnam." that's why I put "Forget Never, Vietnam, '66- '67" over top of it, because I don't ever want to forget it, it's a big part of my life. so that's why i had it

I got it done in Trevose Pennsylvania. I got this other one done when I was 19, it's my artillery tattoo -- crossed cannons --, that was right in Fort Sill Oklahoma. I was 19 -- and at that time in Oklahoma you couldn't get a tattoo, so we had to go to Texas. So four of us got in a car, drove down and got tattoos and drove back.

[About Vietnam] I remember the guys mostly. Most of all the other stuff is gone. I was drafted, I was only in for two years and in Vietnam for 12 months. I could tell you a hundred stories about back then -- but mostly we lived for one another -- that's what it's all about. It got to the point where we didn't care about anything. We didn't care about the war -- we knew they weren't fighting it right. We only cared about each other. It was "I'll save your ass, you save my ass, and we'll get back to the World." It's funny how that happens -- it took about six months. When we went over there, we were gung-ho: We're America, and we're going to kill everybody ... and it changes when you get over there -- it's only "I'm looking after you, you're looking after me -- we're getting home." That's what it became, and I'm sure that's what it is in Iraq right now. They're looking out after each other to get home.

It's funny, we didn't have a reunion until two years ago, and everybody was really nervous. We hadn't seen each other in 30 years, all the guys that I went over with -- we trained as a unit, in Fort Sill Oklahoma, most people didn't do that. We all went over on the ship together, it took 39 days, 3,500 guys -- wo units, two artillery units. We went to DaNang and then we went up to Dung Ha. It was the only army up there -- the artillery units -- the rest was all Marines. I was a forward observer, that's why I went with the Marine Corps.

All of us didn't know how to make that first reunion, -- we were kinda nervous just how everybody would feel about it. I've been involved in veterans groups for years, but we never talk about it -- we never tell war stories. We have a lot of fun together, and we all know that we've come from the same place. We were worried about whether that would happen with these guys, but it didn't. It wasn't, it was great.

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