Death before dishonor: Tattoos and all

Sam Monrreal
Sam Monrreal, warrior without a war, Las Cruces, NM (photo by Gina Martinez)

By Gina Martinez | New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NEW MEXICO —- What does a Marine  do to get into the war anyway?  In a time where our men and women are being asked to enlist and, even, reenlist to fight for the country, why are some, who are more than qualified, being turned away?  Sam Monrreal is one of the warriors who has served the country for four years and is now being denied reenlistment.   At the age of 25 and currently living in his hometown of Vinton, TX, he is waiting to be accepted for duty, after his latest request. He has made several since he left the Corps. He has waited before and says, “here I am doing the  “waiting game again.” While he waits he is enrolled at New Mexico State University attending school on the educational benefits he earned serving in the Marine Corps.

Sam Monrreal

Sam Monrreal, warrior without a war, Las Cruces, NM (photo by Gina Martinez)

The reasons given to Monrreal for the repeated denials of his applications for reenlistment is unclear to him.  He says that “they” say he has too many tattoos.  Sam found himself thinking about many of the Marines he was stationed with, recollecting that many were “sleeved up,” meaning the tattoos covered the arms from shoulder to wrist.

So, why was Sam Monrreal denied?

He thinks the reason for the denial is that in order for him to be accepted it would cost more for the Marine Corps to reenlist a person at his pay grade, than it would to train a new recruit.  While serving, Sam states that he signed up to be deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq and wanted to be in active combat duty to serve his country.  Instead he never made it to a “hot zone.”  He was shipped to Japan where they said he was needed to train others in his field of hydraulic mechanics.  He thinks that whatever the reason for his denial is, they are making a wrong decision.

Sam the willing warrior, says he asks himself, Should reenlisting men and women, who are not only already trained and are willing to put themselves in the line of fire, be denied because they are too high of a cost, or even for having too many tattoos?

He shakes his head, jumps on his skateboard, and blasts his way across the NMSU campus, a warrior            The irony is, he says, is that the tattoo most objectionable to the Marine Corps -because it stuck out below his sleeve cuff- is a “Marine tattoo.” On his forearm, bold and tough is the image of a bulldog wearing a Marine Corps helmet, ready to rumble.  It is an image that represents represents his battalion.

Stretching out from his arm onto his wrist, the objectionable motto says, “Death before Dishonor.”

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