Veterans Day: Tattoos tell veterans’ stories, and so do their medals

“War Ink”
Joel Booth tells his story of tattoos and his lost limb in the online exhibit “War Ink” that launches Tuesday.
(Johann Wolf)

There’s no one way to honor military members on Veterans Day, and hooray for those who find new ways to tell us stories of war, bravery, loss, victory and, most of all, service.

“War Ink” is an online exhibit in which U.S. veterans who live in California explain their tattoos and share their feelings about how they served their country. It launches Tuesday (today) and uses photos as well as video and audio interviews to showcase 24 veterans (more will be added later) who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are about 1.7 million veterans in California, and about 539,000 of those served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the website says.

“I feel this project will help civilians have a better understanding of some of the culture that combat veterans are a part of,” Joel Booth of Temecula, who lost part of his leg during his stint in the Navy, says on the website. “Tattoos tell our stories.”


The digital exhibit was created by Chris Brown, senior manager at the Contra Costa County Library in Northern California, and former U.S. Army medic Jason Deitch.

Since it began, 20 other California libraries have stepped up to support it, including L.A. city and county libraries, and Monrovia Public Library.

To see the online exhibit, go to War Ink.

The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation also is dedicated to telling the stories of veterans, specifically the fewer than 3,500 “individuals who reached the highest level of recognition” during their service.


It plans to raise money for a museum near Charleston, S.C., dedicated to those who have received the nation’s highest honor.

The Medal of Honor was created in 1861 and is given by the president on behalf of Congress. Seventy-eight recipients are still alive, the website says.

The foundation is raising $98 million to create the museum on land donated by South Carolina on the eastern shore of Charleston Harbor. Former independent presidential candidate Ross Perot and actor Gary Sinise are among its supporters.

The museum will feature exhibits, classrooms and programs designed to educate the public. Organizers hope to break ground on the museum in two years. For more information, go to Medal of Honor Museum.

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