U.S. Marines Boot Recruits With Confederate Tattoos

Chelsea Schilling, WorldNetDaily, May 4, 2010

A widely regarded Southern symbol of pride and states’ rights is standing in the way of would-be Marines in their quest to serve their country–a Confederate battle flag.

Straight out of high school, one 18-year-old Tennessee man was determined to serve his country as a Marine. His friend said he passed the pre-enlistment tests and physical exams and looked forward with excitement to the day he would ship out to boot camp.

But there would be no shouting drill instructors, no rigorous physical training and no action-packed stories for the aspiring Marine to share with his family.

Shortly before he was scheduled to leave Nashville for boot camp, the Marine Corps rejected him.

Now, the young man, who wishes to remain unnamed and declined to be interviewed, has chosen to return to school and is no longer an aspiring Marine.

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When the young recruit didn’t go to boot camp, Andrews [former Marine 1st Lt. Gene Andrews, a friend of the man and patriotic Southerner who served in Vietnam from 1968 through 1971] learned of his rejection based on his tattoo of the Confederate battle flag on his shoulder.

‘Right now, it’s a flat-out denial’

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WND contacted the Tennessee recruiting station, and a Marine sergeant explained, “The policy is if a tattoo can be construed by anyone as being gang-related or racially biased, then we can’t accept them.”

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Asked whether an exception might be made for a Marine recruit who could provide a full explanation on the meaning of his tattoo as an expression of Southern pride, the recruiter explained, “At this point in time, no. If it can be construed by anyone as being racially biased, then right now it’s a flat-out denial.”

He acknowledged that the tattoo is quite popular in the South and that recruitment has been impacted by the ban on Confederate-flag tattoos, but he explained that the policy has been set by Headquarters Marine Corps.

Headquarters Marine Corps has not responded to WND’s requests for clarification of the policy.

However, the U.S. Marine Corps “Guidebook for Tattoo Screening, Volume VII,” a manual that outlines procedures for enlisted recruiting and officer procurement operations, explains, “Users of this guidebook should keep in mind, however, that few symbols ever just represent one idea or are used exclusively by one group. For example, the confederate flag is a symbol that is frequently used by white supremacists but which also has been used by people and groups that are not racist. To some it may signify pride in one’s heritage, but to others it suggests slavery or white supremacy.”

‘We’ve seen this before’

Other service members and recruits have dealt with similar issues concerning Confederate flag tattoos and military policy.

The Southern Legal Resource Center, or SLRC, is a nonprofit legal foundation that has handled a number of legal cases involving the Confederate battle flag.

“We’ve seen this before,” SLRC Chief Trial Counsel Kirk Lyons told WND. “This is not a unique situation. {snip} There was one more incident a couple of years ago where another Marine recruit was refused enlistment because of a battle flag tattoo.”

Lyons said the case of the Marine with a Confederate flag bumper sticker was resolved without legal action because the base commander decided to leave it alone. However, he said most enlistees and recruits don’t pursue legal action or complaints, so the policy is never challenged.

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‘This is an insult to us’

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In a recent commentary posted on numerous blogs, Andrews recounted his experience:

“I informed the young sergeant that my family had defended the state of Tennessee (also his home state) against a sadistic invasion under that flag and to call our sacred flag of honor a ‘hate symbol’ was an insult to all southerners, but especially to those southerners who had risked or even given their lives in service to the Marine Corps. Southerners had served at Belleau Woods, at Tarawa and Iwo Jima, at Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir, and at Khe Sanh and Hue City, but now we are no longer wanted in the politically correct, don’t-offend-any-minorities military?”

The sergeant politely explained that the policy was handed down by headquarters.

Andrews continued, “I asked the sergeant if he had taken out the trash yet. He replied that he hadn’t.

“I then said, ‘Please add these to the day’s garbage,’ and returned my lieutenant’s bars, my gold and silver Marine Corps emblem from my dress blues, my shooting badges and my Vietnam ribbons.

“{snip}

Andrews told WND he was born in the South, raised in the South and will always be a Southerner.

“This is an insult to us,” he said. “We’ve laid our lives on the line in the Marine Corps since there was a Marine Corps. We fought in every campaign that the Marine Corps has been involved in. When I was in Vietnam, there were Confederate flags at every base, every fire-support base over there. Nobody said anything about it. There were state flags, Confederate flags, and it was no big deal.”

Andrews said he is not angry. Rather, he is disappointed in the Marine Corps.

“I thought if it had been a bunch of political hacks or a school board or a local government or some municipality that was pretty spineless anyway, I really wouldn’t have been surprised,” he said. “That happens all the time. But I felt that the Marine Corps had a little more backbone and a little more character than that.”

Asked what he would say to people who believe the Confederate flag represents racism and slavery, he responded, “I’d say they don’t know much about history. Slavery existed under the United States flag much longer than it ever did under the Confederate flag.”

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Confederate flag: Symbol of ‘terrorism’ or independence?

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, recently fought to ban the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse. NAACP leaders have said the Confederate flag “supports the evils of slavery” and “represents terrorism.”

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Meanwhile, a May 9, 2000, survey by Gallup Poll News Service posed this question to Americans, “Do you, yourself, see the Confederate flag more as a symbol of Southern pride, or more as a symbol of racism?”

A full 59 percent of all respondents said they believe it is a symbol of Southern pride, while only 28 percent saw it as a symbol of racism.

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