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A picture is worth a thousand words: 'War Ink' documents veterans' stories told through their tattoos

War Ink, Johann Wolf 2014

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

That notion may ring especially true to a demographic for whom words don't always come easily - our nation's veterans. Many of them get tattoos upon their return as a way to document their time in service.

"War Ink" is a project that brings together videos and photographs of some of California's tattooed service members, in an effort to bridge the divide between veterans and civilian communities. 

Chris Brown is one of the creators of "War Ink" and Rebecca Murga is the filmmaker who helped document the soldiers' stories. They both joined Take Two as part of this week's coverage of veterans' trials and triumphs. 

Murga, who served with the Army Reserves in Iraq and Afghanistan, said she wasn't surprised by the popularity of body art among men and women who've served. In fact, Murga said, tattoo culture is embedded in military culture and most of the guys she deployed with had tattoos or wanted to get them.

Both Murga and Brown pointed out that veterans often see tattoos as a way to share their personal stories with the world, to wear their hearts on their sleeves, so to speak. But for many vets featured in "War Ink," their body art is kept hidden. Often these inked expressions tell stories of loss of limbs, or life, and pay tribute to their fallen comrades. For those vets, "War Ink" bridges the gap between them and civilians at home in a way that spoken words never could.

This piece is part of KPCC's ongoing coverage of issues affecting veterans for Veterans Day 2014. See more of our coverage at