Tattoos and the military go hand in hand like beer and pretzels, pizza and beer, beer and brats and...well, you get the idea. The practice of tattooing originated in the South Pacific Isles and it was supposedly early British sailors that brought it back to Western cultures in the 19th century. Personally, I have four of them, none military inspired. I have been thinking of getting one last one to commemorate my military service but something always seems to come in front of it as a priority. Outside of any military base in the US (or overseas) you can usually find a Tattoo shop as one of the 8 required businesses that prey on servicemen and women (the other seven are, in no particular order...a loan store, a used car lot, a pawnshop, a surplus store, a strip club, a Korean restaurant and a bar). In my experience its more of the "high speed" guys that get military tats...Infantry, Airborne, Marines and the like. I think most of the "rest of us" don't have that many cool symbols to work with. But I digress....
A tat that has become popular in our current conflicts is the "meat tag". It seems to be popular with Marines, but I am sure other folks are getting them too. Basically, its a tat on your torso (ribcage area seems most popular) that contains the data that would be on your dog tags. It seems that sometimes its even a tat of your dog tags. Logic is this...with the advent of the IED/SVIED/VBIED that more and more of our troops would be taken out via and explosion. Often times these events would tragically maim the troopers corpse beyond recognition. Assuming the troop was wearing his or her body armor, hopefully the tat would survive in order for the soldiers body to be identified later in case there was an issue with identification. The use of dog tags started similarly in the the Civil War when soldiers on both sides started sewing their names into their uniforms so that they could be identified if killed.
Really, its a sad procedure that I am sure will continue. It will probably be some type of rite of passage for infantry types in the future to signify that you are ready to lay your life on the line in the future. I remember in 2006-2007 when I was overseas the images of Nick Berg being beheaded were still fresh in our minds as well as the mutilation of our dead by the enemy so I am sure that this is at least part of the logic behind the practice. Maybe at some point in the future part of being in the military will be accepting that they would implant a chip in you, like we do our pets, to identify you if they find your body years after a battle. I remember there being a bit of a stink when they began collecting DNA from us for that purpose from folks that thought that it would be used for nefarious purposes but nothing ever came of that.
Anyway, thats a meat tag, just in case you were wondering.