Tim Sova, a military veteran, has completed two tours of Iraq and has worked as a private contractor in Afghanistan, but he’s been fighting a more personal battle since returning home. Like many of his fellow Marine Corps veterans, he deals with PTSD as a result of being in combat.
Living in a North Shore suburb of Boston in Gloucester, Massachusetts, he now works as a Massachusetts State Trooper. Upon being honorably discharged, Tim needed to remove a portion of his tattoo to enter the state trooper academy. With this career change and the desire to leave behind painful memories from the time when he got his tattoo, he turned to the Removery for laser removal. Read on to hear more of Tim’s story, what led him to make this choice, and why he couldn’t be happier with the results.
Tim has a long family history of military service—his great uncle was in Pearl Harbor, his grandfather fought in WWII, and his uncles were in Vietnam. In high school, at age 17, it just made sense for him to enlist. “It’s always kind of been something I felt like I was destined to do,” he says. Tattooing is a central element of both Tim’s family’s culture and military culture. His mother had two arm sleeves, he says. And while service people need to make sure their tattoos meet the guidelines of their military branch, most people in the Marine Corps have tattoos, he adds. So, between tours of duty, he got a tattoo on his right shoulder depicting skulls, a Maltese cross, and flames. He was 18 at the time. “I was young, and I thought I was a cool guy,” he laughs.
Adjusting to life after the Marine Corps was extremely hard, Tim says. “When I first got out of the Marine Corps, I’d just finished deployment, and 60 days later, I’m a civilian,” he says. “It was really hard to adjust from being overseas and having that combat mindset, and then just being back home, and everything is just normal, it’s back to normal, or it’s supposed to be—being around friends, driving down the road not looking out for bombs.” Many of his peers struggled with PTSD as well. Some of them even ended up committing suicide. “They felt like they had nowhere to turn,” he says. “It’s still a daily struggle, but I do the best I can.” A military tattoo can bring up painful memories from the time when a person got it, exacerbating their pain, Tim asserts. Removing or covering up the veteran tattoo up can keep those painful memories from constantly returning, especially when PTSD is a continuous struggle.
“I had trouble sleeping because I felt like my mind was always on the alert.”
One day in the gym, looking at himself in the mirror in a tank top, this really hit home. The tattoo on his right shoulder with the skulls, flames, and Maltese cross didn’t feel like who he was anymore—it only reminded him of an incredibly difficult time in his life. For that reason, he had the tattoo faded and covered up. “It’s a more peaceful tattoo, so it’s definitely helped me to wash away some bad memories I have from that time,” he says of the new one, an image of the Puerto Rican jungle. This one means a lot to him because his wife is from Puerto Rico, their two daughters are half Puerto Rican, and he loves visiting the island together as a family. Now, he doesn’t think about the painful memories from his military tours whenever he looks at himself in the mirror. Getting the old tattoo removed helped those old memories subside, replacing them with joyful memories of family trips to a beloved place. Tattoo cover ups symbolize a new chapter in life.
Tim also had another tattoo partially removed, fading just the bottom of it where it stuck out below his sleeve. He loves this tattoo of a pineapple grenade, but he needed to make sure he had no visible tattoos below the short-sleeve line for his police uniform when he started training for that job. Lots of other military veterans he knows have had to get tattoos removed as they started civilian life, too. Entering the academy, he met many others who needed tattoo cover ups. “They have a policy in place where no tattoos are supposed to be visible below a short-sleeve line,” Tim says. “In order to actually get the job, I had to get them removed.”
“Time was kind of a constraint because I had to get [the tattoo] removed before entering the Academy,” he notes. “But it worked out. Removery did it perfectly; it worked out perfectly.”
Because the dark, heavy ink in that tattoo was not fading quickly, he had an excision done by a plastic surgeon. He’s thrilled about the results. Many other people he knows have had an excision done, and it looks absolutely terrible, he says. Thus, he now refers everyone he knows to Removery. “They do it all at Removery—they do the laser, they can recommend plastic surgeons,” he says.
Tim has continued to fade other work for a tattoo coverup which was done by Mark Wade Ink, in Austin, Texas whose art he raves about. “It’s so realistic and so lifelike; the colors are amazing—I’m over-the-moon happy with the work he’s done,” he says. He’s had three sessions with Mark and enjoys hanging out with him while he does his work.
Getting the tattoo was a six-month process because the artist was really booked up, but it was worth it. Communication went smoothly every step of the way. “He was on the ball,” says Tim. The artist is the brother-in-law of a staff member at the Removery in Boston, MA, where he had his laser removal work done. They got in communication early on, corresponding by email. The outside of the old tattoo is completely covered up, and Mark is finishing up the part on Tim’s inner bicep. “I’m just in love with it,” he says. Tim has been working with the Removery on and off for about seven years now. If anyone he knows is interested in tattoo removal for military uniform regulations or removing military symbols for civil service work, he sends them there.
Wondering, “Where can I find tattoo removal near me?” The Removery removes tattoos for veterans at locations in many cities. Find your nearest location here so you can start your tattoo removal journey.
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