Noah grew up in Grass Valley, California. By his junior year of high school he already decided that he was going to become airborne infantry in the Army. He enlisted during senior year through the Delayed Entry Program. After completing basic training, infantry school, and airborne school, Noah was assigned to the legendary, reactivated 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, a unit that saw combat in Vietnam for six continuous years, receiving over 7,700 decorations, including 6,000 Purple Hearts. Noah deployed to Afghanistan, serving with distinction in a scout/sniper platoon. His service came to an end on December 4, 2005, when Noah nearly died in a combined IED/ambush attack. He and his girlfriend are now excitedly awaiting the birth of their first child.
Zak was born in Houston, Texas, and lost both parents soon thereafter. A year after graduating high school, Zak joined the Army to become an infantryman. After completing basic training and making it through the Army's infamous Sand Hill Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. Zak deployed to Iraq ,where his unit saw intense action in the Ramadi area. After serving with distinction, he is now studying to become a registered veterinary technician. Zak is also a published author. His book, The Making of an Infantryman, can be found on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.
Joel is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. He is the son of a long-serving Army aviator and an elementary school teacher. As a [Fleet Marine Force] corpsman in the Navy, he was attached to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in Sangin, Afghanistan. Joel served with distinction until he was injured in an IED attack outside Patrol Base Vegas in July of 2011. Joel now lives in Temecula, and is an emergency medical technician in training to become a paramedic.
David was born in New York City, but when he was seven, his parents relocated the family to Concord, California. David joined the Army at age 23 to answer the call of what "was missing from my life." David served as an infantryman, assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. He was deployed to Iraq for 15 months, where he performed counterinsurgency operations and then interdiction operations targeting weapon-smuggling across the Jordanian and Syrian borders.
Tracey was born in New Jersey, but graduated from high school in South Carolina. A month after graduation, she joined the Army and became an animal care specialist focused on military working dogs. She served several years and then left the Army to join the South Carolina National Guard and return to college. After the 9/11 attacks, she was activated to the 109th Medical Detachment-Veterinary out of Stanton, California, and was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon completion of her service, she returned again to college and graduated. She is now on to pursuing her Master in Public Administration. Tracey is also an extremely active veterans' advocate, and has done groundbreaking work around dismantling "Dont Ask, Dont Tell." She lives in Los Angeles Ca with her wife, Maggie.
Jose was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, but emigrated to Mountain View, California at the age of seven. He was planning on eventually going to medical school when the 9/11 attacks occurred. He immediately enlisted in the Marines. Jose was assigned initially to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division. He served four tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2008, receiving the Bronze Star with Combat V during his second tour. Jose is currently pursuing his BA in the science of nursing at the University of San Francisco, with the hope of later pursuing his Master's degree.
John was born in Stanford, but raised in Napa. At a young age, he decided that he wanted to be an infantryman and entered the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program at the end of his junior year of high school. He left for basic training two months after graduation, but was seriously injured and medically discharged. Undeterred, John enlisted in the Army a year later. He became an infantryman attached to 382nd Detachment, 3rd Corps. Before being deployed to Iraq, John was selected to become a member of a Personal Security Detachment, providing security for key leadership and assets. This duty took him to Fallujah, Ramadi, and Baghdad. John served with distinction, and now once again lives in Napa. He is in the process of becoming a correctional officer.
Alex was born and raised in Salinas. Alex was enrolled in college, but left to enlist after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He joined the Army as an infantryman. After basic training and infantry school, Alex was assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Brigade, 14th Infantry Battalion, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, New York. He was deployed to Iraq from March 2003 to 2004, and then redeployed to Iraq again after being back in the U.S. less than a week. On his second tour, Alex lost three of his closest team members to IED attacks within a month. After his service, Alex returned home to Salinas and is the proud father of two children.
Mike was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, but soon moved to his father's hometown of Walnut Creek, California. At the end of high school, Mike decided to join the Marines. Mike had an epiphany soon after joining, leaving his original assignment to become an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Mike did two tours in Iraq. He was team leader during the second tour, when his unit was the core element in Operation Phantom Fury, the deadly second battle of Fallujah. He is now a social worker and readjustment counselor for the VA, having graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a loving and devoted husband and father to a new baby girl, Adeline.
William was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. After a short stint at Iowa State, he left to pursue higher service, enlisting in the Army on a Ranger contract. He passed the extraordinary qualifications necessary to join the the legendary Rangers. He served with Charlie Company, 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, with which he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and served with distinction. He is now pursuing a BA in biology at the University of San Francisco, with the intention of continuing on to medical school.
John was born in Aurora, Illinois and lived there until joining the Army in 2005. John became an infantryman assigned to Battle Company, Ist Battalion, 28th Infantry, otherwise known as the Black Lions of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. John was deployed to Iraq from 2007 to 2008, serving with distinction and completing what's known as a "Lucky 13:" a 13-month combat tour. After leaving the military, John traveled the world, venturing as far as Cambodia. He will soon be starting college.
Heather was born and raised in Point Reyes, California. After trying college, Heather decided that she would rather serve and joined the Air Force. Heather became a special purpose and heavy equipment diesel mechanic and saw duty with the 554th, 219th, and 819th Red Horse Squadrons. Heather was deployed to Iraq and then Afghanistan. Both times she volunteered for road convoy duty, a high-risk role. Heather returned to the U.S. in 2014 after being stationed in Germany, where she was promoted to Sergeant. Heather is now transitioning into the Air Force Reserves.
Thomas was born and raised in San Jose, California. Thomas attended college for two years, before heeding the call to serve and enlisting in the Army. Thomas became a combat engineer, and was assigned to the 103rd Engineer Company, 94th Engineer battalion, otherwise known as "the Wolverines." Thomas deployed to Iraq, where his unit saw intense operational use in the Garib area. Thomas is now approaching completion of his BA in kinesiology and intends to pursue a graduate degree in physical therapy. He and his fiancee live in his hometown of San Jose.
Ryan was born and raised in Santa Cruz California. When he was approaching his 22nd birthday, he heard the call of service and decided to enlist in the Army. Ryan became a Military Policeman and was assigned to the 870th MP Company, 49th MP Brigade. He deployed with his unit to Iraq, and was operational in both the Karbala and Abu Ghraib areas. When his service was finished, Ryan returned home to Santa Cruz, where he fully committed to realizing his childhood wish of becoming The Illustrated Man-it is an ongoing process! Ryan is now close to finishing his degree in Criminal Justice.
Victoria was born in SoSan, South Korea, and adopted by an American family through a Catholic-run agency. She was then raised in Abingdon, Maryland. Immediately after graduating high school, Victoria joined the Navy. She served on the medical team of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman as deck seaman striking toward corpsman. She then served on board the USS Frank Cable submarine tender as a corpsman/surgical technologist. While not at sea, she cared for incoming wounded service members and their families at the naval medical centers in Portsmouth, Virginia and San Diego, California. After serving with distinction for nine years, Victoria is now pursuing her undergraduate degree.
Christopher was born in Orange, California, but later moved to Utah and Tennessee before joining the Marine Corps. Christopher served as a machine gunner attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment Weapons Company, where he did two tours in Iraq. Christopher just graduated from University of California, Riverside.
Patrick was born in Oakland, California, but raised in Antioch from the age of six onward. A state champion diver in high school, he enlisted in the Navy during his senior year as part of the Delayed Entry Program. Patrick became a SeaBee (Build Rate) attached to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133. Patrick was deployed to Afghanistan 48 hours after the 9/11 attacks as part of the initial invasion force. He then deployed to Iraq in 2003, where his duties took him around the majority of the country.
Patrick Meagher was born in Portland, Oregon in 1941. His father was a Naval Reservist who had been reactivated for World War II, and served as a supervisor for three naval shipyards during the war. Patrick joined the Navy in 1959, right after graduating from high school in Castro Valley, California. He served as a torpedoman on the USS Cusk SS348, USS Andrew Jackson SSBN 619 Blue and the USS Barbel SS580, all diesel submarines. This was an extremely difficult, risky job demanding discipline and psychological strength. After his career in the Navy ended in 1977, Patrick went on to complete his Bachelors and his Masters degrees and worked as a mental health professional in several capacities, including a long stint in Europe for the Navy and Air Force. Patrick continues his service to veterans today as Veterans Services Officer for Trinity County, California.
Larry spent his early life in Los Banos, California. He enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 2002 and was reclassified as Military Police post enlistment. He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 with 1st of the 377th Field Artillery Regiment. Once there, Larry volunteered for convoy security to protect Camp Taji's transportation assets, extremely high contact/high danger duty. Since returning from Iraq, Larry continues to serve the CalGuard in the critical role of instructor to pre-deployment CalGuard units, training "his brothers and sisters to fight and survive war." He is now a Sergeant First Class. He is also a dedicated and loving husband and father to eight children.
Jeff was born in Arlington, Virginia, and lived up and down the East Coast until he was 12 and his family settled in Cool, California (real name!). Jeff joined the Marines when he was 21. As a mortarman, he served with 81's Platoon, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. Jeff deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan Jeff's unit ran an astounding operational pace. After serving for five years and achieving the rank of Sergeant, Jeff left the Marines and returned to California. He is currently pursuing a degree as a physician assistant.
Ron was born in Oakland, California to a Hawaiian-born father and Irish-born mother. He joined the Navy at 18 and became a fleet marine corpsman assigned with 8th Marine Security Force, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. He saw duty in the Sinai, Egypt, Somalia, Tunisia and Croatia. After Ron was injured in a training incident, he returned the U.S. He became a police officer in Oakland while simultaneously serving in the California Army National Guards 184th Air Assault as a senior medic. Ron is now a registered nurse in Santa Cruz and runs a "We Honor Veterans" program for the Hospice of Santa Cruz County.
Jeff was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia but moved many times in his childhood because his step-dad was a Navy officer. A year after high school Jeff enlisted in the Army and became an armourer-small weapons expert. He was assigned to the 18th Combat Sustainment Battalion in Germany, where he was chosen to command Security Detail, providing close physical protection for unit leadership. He also volunteered for route clearance operations, an extremely dangerous duty that required purposely causing IED detonations. After serving with distinction, Jeff returned to the U.S., first to Michigan and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue his college. He will soon receive his degree in business administration.
Jonathan was born in San Jose, California, and raised in the neighboring town of Gilroy. He always knew he was going to be a soldier, entering the Army's Delayed Entry Program as a high school junior. He left for basic training a week after graduation. He became a combat engineer, assigned to the the 569th Engineer Company, 4th Engineer Battalion, a unit that has served continuously since the Civil War. Jonathan's unit and the 555th Brigade were jointly deployed to Iraq. After four months, his unit was the first ever to receive immediate redeployment, this time to Afghanistan. During that deployment, Jonathan was awarded a Medal of Valor for saving a number of his friends during a brutal firefight. After his service ended, Jonathan returned to California to attend flight school with the goal of becoming a helicopter pilot. He is now in Prescott, Arizona completing that process.
Russell is originally from Austin, Texas, but graduated from West Point and was an officer in the Armor Division of the Army. He was deployed to Iraq for an extended 15-month tour as leader of a combined armor/infantry platoon with Charlie Company,1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. The men in Russell's company averaged four IED hits. A full third of the platoon was awarded the Purple Heart. Russell is nearing completion of his Ph.D. at Stanford University and works in the Etkin Neuroscience Lab, where he is helping to develop multiple platforms of combat trauma diagnosis using advanced imaging technology.
Many Voices, Many Lives
The veterans featured in War Ink come from communities across California and represent each branch of the military. To find them, the exhibit's creators contacted hundreds of tattoo shops, as well as nearly every [Vet Center] in California, including [student vet] centers at every state university and University of California.
Military culture is wary of expressing feelings and emotions. Exposing oneself to cameras and difficult questions is challenging, even frightening. Yet the men and women featured on this site chose the courageous step of sharing their wartime experiences and describing the struggles that they have faced upon their return home. They took this risk to begin an important open, honest dialogue with those who haven't served. After all, meaningful communication is vital to thriving communities. And the women and men who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan need community support in order to "come all the way home."