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Confederate flag tattoo stops man from joining Marines

The Marine Corps has confirmed that a man was told his tattoo of a cConfederate flag made him ineligible to join the Marines because it violates the service’s tattoo policy on body ink.

"These Confederate flag tattoos have been denied in the past," said Capt. Dustin Pratico, a spokesman for the 8th Recruiting District. "It's a not new thing. This isn't the first time that it's ever happened. This is just one of the times it happened to catch media attention."

The story was first reported on Jan. 20 by the Little Rock TV station KARK 4. Pratico confirmed that Anthony Bauswell made a "verbal commitment" to join the Marine Corps on Jan. 18 at a recruiting station in Conway, Arkansas. A staff noncommissioned officer in charge then interviewed Bauswell as part of the recruiting process.

Anthony Bauswell, 18, said he was turned away because of his confederate flag tattoo.
Anthony Bauswell, 18, said he was turned away because of his confederate flag tattoo.

Anthony Bauswell, 18, said he was turned away from joining the Marine Corps because of his Confederate flag tattoo.

Photo Credit: Courtesy KARK 4 News

"During that interview, it came to light that he had this Confederate flag, rebel tattoo and [he] was disqualified for that," Pratico told Marine Corps Times on Tuesday. "In recruiting, we follow the tattoo policy for everything that it states and the kid was considered to not meet the standards of what the tattoo currently states."

Specifically, the Marine Corps' tattoo policy bans "anything that can be viewed as prejudice, racist, sexist or offensive." Pratico said.

Anthony Bauswell, 18, said he was turned away because of his confederate flag tattoo.
Anthony Bauswell, 18, said he was turned away because of his confederate flag tattoo.

Anthony Bauswell displays his Confederate flag tattoo, which prevented him from joining the Marine Corps.

Photo Credit: Courtesy KARK 4 News

Having a Confederate flag tattoo does not automatically disqualify people from joining the Marine Corps, said Maj. Garron Garn, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command. MCRC can issue waivers for some Confederate flag tattoos. The process starts at the recruiting station level and can go all the way to the MCRC commander.

MCRC looks at the size, location and content of tattoos, as well as applicants' backgrounds, when determining whether to issue a waiver for a Confederate flag tattoo, Garn said.

In this case, the staff NCO noncommissioned officer in charge at the recruiting station did not recommend issuing a waiver for Bauswell’s tattoo, officials said. Bauswell’s tattoo is on his torso. 

Bauswell could not be reached for comment by deadline on Tuesday.

Pratico suggested that anyone who is interested in joining the military talk to a recruiter about what tattoos are permissible before getting inked.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times in a recent interview that the service's updated tattoo policy is expected to be released within the next 30 days, which will clarify which tattoos are allowed. Sleeve tattoos will still be prohibited, he said.

"We’re Marines," Neller said in the Jan. 20 interview. "We have a brand. People expect a certain thing from us and right now, if you’re in [physical training] PT uniform, you can be completely tatted up under your PT uniform. That’s not enough? You can still get certain size tattoos on your arms and your legs. How much do you want?"

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