KURT MILLER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Riverside military veteran Chris Markowski saw daily combat as an infantry machine gunner during two deployments to Iraq.
Now, the 19 tattoos inked onto the 29-year-old former Marine’s body are a daily reminder of his experiences and a heartfelt attempt, after returning home, to bridge the gap between himself and people who haven’t been to war.
Markowski is among a younger generation of war veterans who hope their military tattoos create a connection with people they still call “civilians” who will initiate real conversations and enable vets to open up about what they’ve been through.
“A lot of vets have an issue with talking,” Markowski said Monday. “They don’t know how to talk with civilians without scaring or offending them, terrifying them. A lot of us lack that ability.”
Markowski and two veterans from Temecula and Fontana are among 24 Californians whose military tattoos and combat experiences are being featured in an online multimedia exhibit titled “War Ink” that’s being launched Veterans Day.
The virtual exhibit, which will be available at warink.org or through links posted on public library websites in Riverside and elsewhere, uses photos, video and audio to help the vets tell their stories.
The participants live in 15 California counties and range in age from 24 to 72. All but one are veterans of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another served during the Vietnam and Korean war eras.
The project was created by former Army medic Jason Deitch and Chris Brown, a senior manager at Contra Costa County Library. Partners in the project include photographer Johann Wolf, documentary film maker Rebecca Murga and the StoryCorps Military Voices Initiative.
The veterans gathered at the Concord Vet Center, where their tattoos and words were documented over four days.The project’s organizers wanted to recreate the closeness of the relationships most of them lost after leaving the military due to isolation and alienation, and the difficulty of remaining in close contact with people who remind them of difficult, […]