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Tattooing as history and art

The fact that service members get tattoos is not new

First Lieutenant Evan Myers watches as Raleigh Bamer, owner of Bulldog Tattoo Parlor, begins the work of adding to Myer’s tattoos. Photo credit: JM Simpson

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First Lieutenant Evan Myers watched as Raleigh Bamer pulled back the piece of tattoo tracing paper that left a stencil of a wizard on his right leg just above the ankle.

This is not the first time Myers has seen this. He estimated he had been tattooed 15 times and that Bamer had added four or five of those tattoos.

"I have always wanted tattoos, but I didn't have the money," began the Headquarters and Headquarters Company officer in 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division.

The fact that servicemembers get tattoos is not new. The inking of skin traces its lineage to the Greek and Roman armies, the tribal warriors of the British Isles, and the M?ori tribes of New Zealand. In most cases, they represent a rite of passage or a sense of unity.

This sense of unity has been popular with many service members who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bamer, who has worked as a tattoo artist for over a decade and owns the Bulldog Tattoo Parlor in Olympia, understands, appreciates and respects this.   

"I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate and respect their service and sacrifice of all service members," he explained, "because they are the ones who help provide and do protect this life for us."

"Their tattoos strengthen that resolve."

As Myers reclined on a padded and papered table, Bamer began by disinfecting and shaving the area where the tattoo would go. Once done, he carefully and confidently highlighted the stencil. After Myers okayed the prep work, Bamer picked up up a tattoo machine (sometimes referred to as a tattoo gun) and carefully began the process of tracing the wizard's outlining and shading in the color. 

"We provide all of our customers exactly what they want," Bamer explained as he worked, "and we do this in a timely and professional manner."

"As to working in this pandemic, you can see that everyone, customers and artists, in here is masked."

During the near hour-long process, Bamer occasionally checked in with Myers to ensure that he liked what he could see of the work and that he was comfortable.

"It is exciting to watch an idea go from paper to ink to shading to art," commented Myers. "As to this tattoo, well, some individuals buy art for their homes; I buy art for my body. Besides, I like to support artists."

According to Bamer, the tattoo artists who work with him in his well-lit and clean parlor are experienced professionals.

As Myers prepared to leave, Bamer asked if he was happy with his newest tattoo.

"Always," replied Myers.

The Bulldog Tattoo Parlor is located at 3959 Martin Way East in Olympia. For more information about service, pricing and hours, visit or call 360.350.0237.

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