People sometimes use tattoos as a creative way to honor someone who died. Whether you are in the military and would like to acknowledge one of your fallen comrades, or you are a civilian looking for ideas on how to commemorate the life of a member of the U.S. Army, this article is for you.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Small US Army Memorial Tattoo Ideas
- Larger US Army Memorial Tattoo Ideas
- Sayings or Quotes for an Army Memorial Tattoo
- Army Memorial Tattoos for a Father or Grandfather
- Army Memorial Tattoos for a Mother or Grandmother
- Traditional Army Memorial Tattoo Ideas
Let’s go over some U.S. Army memorial tattoos and design ideas that can have a large or small place of honor on your body.
Post-loss tip: Finding a unique way to memorialize your loved one might be just one of the challenges you're facing after a loss—especially if you're the executor of the person's estate. Our post-loss checklist can help sort out what you might need to do next.
Small US Army Memorial Tattoo Ideas
Even a small tattoo can be a lovely reminder of someone you lost. Wondering what to do in memory of someone? Go for a few of these small tattoo ideas.
1. Dog tags
A dog tag tattoo can be large or small. The text on the tattooed dog tags can be the same as what appeared on your loved one’s real dog tag (which includes name, Social Security number, blood type, and religious preference.) Don’t use your loved one’s Social Security number on your tattoo. Instead, consider replacing some of the text with “rest in peace” or “gone but not forgotten.”
You may choose to have the dog tag chain tattoo wrap around your neck, wrist, or ankle.
2. Fallen soldier tattoo
The classic design for a fallen soldier is one that depicts a helmet atop a gun near military-issue boots. This tattoo may imply that the soldier died during active duty, but it could also be used to remember a soldier who died as a result of an injury incurred while serving his country.
Consider personalizing this image with the name of the fallen soldier you plan to honor. You can do so by adding your loved one’s name above or below the image.
Poppies are used to remember the fallen soldiers of World War I. British people often wear poppies on Remembrance Day, similar to Memorial Day in the U.S.
You may choose to use the image of a poppy to remember your deceased soldier’s life, even if he or she died during another conflict or war.
4. Yellow ribbon
Remembrance ribbons aren’t just for cancer. A yellow remembrance ribbon supports the military forces, especially those currently deployed. The history of the yellow ribbon is fascinating and dates back to a song from the 1600s that describes a woman wearing a yellow ribbon to remember her love, off fighting a war.
Some choose to have words tattooed within the shape of the yellow ribbon. You may explain your relationship to the deceased, such as “my son” or “my wife.”
Larger US Army Memorial Tattoo Ideas
Military funerals are poignant and moving ways to honor a U.S. Army veteran. It’s hard for anyone in attendance to be unaffected by the 21-gun salute or the presentation of the colors to the deceased’s family.
Tattoos are also beautiful tributes to fallen soldiers. Here are some ideas for memorial tattoos that may look better if drawn larger rather than smaller.
5. Kneeling soldier
If you are a member of the military and you would like to honor fallen comrades, you may consider getting a tattoo of a kneeling soldier.
These can be done in various styles and you may easily add religious imagery to the design.
6. American flag
American flag tattoos are extremely popular when remembering a fallen military member.
The flag may be shown waving and tattered on the battlefield, or it may be folded traditionally when presented to the family member at a military funeral.
American symbols are popular among the military, and wings are symbols of death. An eagle is especially appropriate for an Army memorial tattoo.
8. Soldier in uniform
If you know a tattoo artist who has a talent for portraits, consider having a tattoo done that shows your soldier in uniform.
Show others that you will remember this special soldier forever by getting his face tattooed on your arm or leg.
9. Soldier silhouette
Consider getting a tattoo that shows the shadow image of a soldier silhouette. The soldier may be crouched with a gun, saluting a flag, or looking up at a helicopter flying.
If you are honoring a group of fallen soldiers, consider adding the deceased’s initials and the dates of death.
10. Uncle Sam
Consider using the classic image of Uncle Sam for your tattoo. Your deceased loved one answered Uncle Sam’s call. Be proud of his or her sacrifice.
Sayings or Quotes for an Army Memorial Tattoo
Are you looking for the perfect words to accompany an army memorial tattoo? Here are some ideas.
Some people choose to put the fallen soldier’s name on the tattoo, and others only use the initials.
11. “We Will Remember You”
Perhaps you are getting a tattoo with others who are mourning a fallen soldier or groups of soldiers. If so, the phrase “we will remember you” may be appropriate.
12. “Honor the Fallen”
Looking for a way to honor a fallen soldier? Consider this simple phrase, as well as a list of the soldiers who were important to you. A talented tattoo artist would be able to think of an artistic way to add each name.
13. “Army Strong”
Most of the tattoos on this list so far aren’t specific to the Army. The U.S. Army has been using “Army Strong” as a slogan for more than a decade. Consider using these two words for your Army memorial tattoo.
14. “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord will be there wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
This is a shortened version of the verse found in Joshua 1:9. It reminds families of soldiers that no matter what happens, God is with your soldier.
15. “Freedom Isn’t Free”
This phrase is found on shirts and bumper stickers, so why shouldn’t you use it for a tattoo? This tattoo could remind others of your sacrifice for the country.
16. “The high price of freedom is a cost paid by a brave few.”
Sometimes people need to be reminded that all the freedom they enjoy was purchased for them by an American soldier.
17. “I love my soldier.”
There’s no reason to use the past tense for the word “love.” Even if your soldier is no longer living, you still love him.
18. “All Give Some; Some Give All”
You may consider getting a tattoo of a phrase instead of an image. This phrase describes the sacrifice of your loved one for his or her country. You could also personalize this phrase with a picture of the fallen soldier or his or her name.
19. “Never Forget”
Of course, you don’t want others to forget your soldier’s sacrifice. This phrase may follow the date of a specific battle or war that took the life of your loved one.
Army Memorial Tattoos for a Father or Grandfather
One would think that most Army memorial tattoos would be found on members of the service branch. However, on occasion, someone who did not serve might get an Army tattoo to show the sacrifice of military family members who lost loved ones.
Here are some ideas for memorial tattoos for a father or grandfather who served in the Army. Getting a tattoo is one way to honor the life of a loved one.
20. Folded Flag
A soldier may have presented a folded flag to your family during your dad’s or grandfather’s funeral. Use this as an inspiration for the memorial tattoo.
21. Military Headstone
While you might not like the idea of tattooing the image of a headstone on your body, you might include it as a part of a larger design.
22. Warrior Ethos
Some soldiers tattoo the Warrior Ethos (or at least a portion of it) on their bodies. You might want to do this to honor the life of your dad or granddad. It begins:
“I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
23. Army Logo
The Army logo of the white star outlined with yellow on a black background would make an interesting tattoo. Then, of course, to memorialize the life of your dad or grandpa, add their name, birth date, and death date.
24. Infantry Tattoo
Was your dad or grandpa a member of the infantry? Get an “in memory” tattoo for your loved one with two guns crossed.
25. Military Occupation Tattoo
While we aren’t sure of the etiquette involved with military tattoos, you might consider honoring your dad or grandpa by including an image of their military occupation in the design of your tattoo. For example, if they were in air assault forces, you might get a parachute or a winged sword. Include the deceased’s name to distinguish between their service and your sacrifice as a military family member.
Army Memorial Tattoos for a Mother or Grandmother
In most cases, the Army memorial tattoos that would be appropriate for your father or grandfather could also be used for your mom or grandma. Here are some other ideas to honor the service of these important women in your life.
26. Army Seal
If you are working with a talented tattoo artist who is excellent with detailed designs, you might consider having an image of the army seal tattooed on your body. Surround the image with your mom’s or grandma’s name.
27. Dog Tags
We know we already mentioned dog tags as a possible Army tattoo, but it is especially relevant if you wish to honor the life of a loved one. Consider getting an image of your loved one’s dog tags as a tattoo. You might want to accompany this image with their birth and death dates.
Do you have an inspiring Army portrait of your loved one? Seek a tattoo artist that specializes in portraits. Ask to see examples of their work before committing.
Was your mom or grandma a Christian service member? Consider using the image of a cross to memorialize their service.
People often use the image of a feather as a memorial tattoo. To show that your mom or grandma was a member of the U.S. military, have the artist complete the picture in red, white, and blue.
31. Rosie the Riveter
We know that the image of Rosie the Riveter was created to honor the civilian women who stepped up during World War II to work essential jobs in factories across the country. Since then, the image has been used as a symbol of female empowerment. If your grandma served in this manner, consider getting this tattoo (perhaps with the face of your grandmother).
Any type of tattoo can be considered a military tattoo if the right words or images are added. For example, you might want to get a tattoo of your mom’s or grandma’s favorite flower with their name, rank, birth, and death dates as a part of the design. The same could be done for your dad or grandfather as well.
Traditional Army Memorial Tattoo Ideas
Even though there are plenty of traditional Army memorial tattoos, some people choose a design that celebrates the specific soldier who was lost. For example, you might want to memorialize the soldier with Irish ancestry by tattooing their name and death date inside a four-leaf clover. Perhaps you would rather have a less obvious approach and tattoo a flying bird for each life lost in your division.
Here are some traditional Army memorial tattoo designs.
33. Soldier saluting a military headstone
If you would like to honor all fallen soldiers, you might design a tattoo that depicts your image kneeling at a military headstone or standing at salute.
34. Fallen soldier battle cross
The most common Army memorial tattoo is the “fallen soldier” design. Boots, a gun, a helmet, and dog tags typically make up this design.
35. “Honor Their Sacrifice”
If you have a list of people to honor, have each person’s name tattooed on your body under a banner that says, “Honor Their Sacrifice.”
36. Tattered flag
A tattered flag waving in the breeze represents the hardships people have undergone to build this country. Add the name of your fallen loved one beneath the flag or within the stripes.
Like feathers, wings have become symbolic of death. Even though it is not always used to represent the death of a soldier, you could use it in the overall memorial design.
Soldiers who were Prisoners of War or Missing in Action deserve special consideration when memorializing their sacrifices with a tattoo. One way to do this is to use the POW/MIA logo as a tattoo design.
39. Yellow ribbon
Show others that you will never forget your fallen friend or loved one.
40. Patriotic images
If you are having difficulty coming up with an appropriate memorial tattoo for a soldier who died, consider celebrating the country as you honor your fallen friend. Get a tattoo of an eagle, waving flag, folded flag, the Liberty Bell, or service logo. Ask for muted colors and add the name, rank, birth, and death dates of the person you are honoring in the design.
Other Ways to Remember a Fallen Soldier
If getting a tattoo isn’t your style, you may not trust a tattoo artist to produce a permanent image on your body, or you may not be able to stand the pain of the needle. If you are hesitant to get a tattoo, here are other ideas to remember your deceased Army veteran.
Consider performing acts of service to remember a soldier who served her country. Write letters to military members serving overseas. Donate to charitable organizations that support veterans and their families. Attend Veteran’s Day parades and stand when groups of veterans go by the parade route. Decorate the grave of your fallen soldier with an American flag.
If you are afraid that others will forget your loved one, talk about her. Share stories and photographs. Ask others to share their favorite memories of the deceased.
Creating an online memorial page, if you haven't done so already, is also a wonderful way to honor your loved one. Cake's online memorial pages are easy to use, and they allow visitors to leave tributes and even donate funds if you enable fundraising.