Roger Sparks hard at work healing through tattoos.

War Hero Uses Tattooing as PTSD Therapy

After enduring a traumatic wartime event, Silver Star recipient turns to tattoos for catharsis.

Powerton in Stories

The therapeutic potential of tattoos is incredibly strong, a fact that is exemplified by many individuals' experiences with the art form, but in some special cases, this cathartic power of tattoo is completely awe-inspiring. This is the case with Roger Sparks, a pararescueman and tattoo artist who received a Silver Star after surviving a traumatic experience of armed combat in the Afghan Mountains.   

Ross Howerton
From Tattoodo App
Sparks during the ceremony in which he was award the Silver Star. RogerStark silverstar tattooartist warhero
Sparks during the ceremony in which he was award the Silver Star. #RogerStark #silverstar #tattooartist #warhero

In November 2010, during a notorious week of warfare known as Bulldog Bite, Sparks was caught in a firefight and courageously performed triage on his dying comrades as they were repeatedly shelled by heavy artillery. Though he's a hero and was commended for his actions, the incident left him suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, Sparks has found a means of recovery from his PTSD through the art of tattooing.

Ross Howerton
From Tattoodo App
Sparks working on a large skull tattoo on a man's chest. chestpiece RogerStark silverstar skull tattooartist warhero
Sparks working on a large skull tattoo on a man's chest. #chestpiece #RogerStark #silverstar #skull #tattooartist #warhero

Roughly a year after the aforementioned event, Sparks was approached by several men who were interested in making a documentary about the relationship between tattoos and the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. Something extraordinary occurred while Sparks was working on the project: giving and receiving tattoos provided him with a way to grapple with his trauma. You can hear some of his very inspirational remarks in the video at the bottom. It's quite moving, to say the least.  

Ross Howerton
From Tattoodo App
Sparks consulting a client at Eagle River Tattoo. baldeagle consulting patriotic RogerStark silverstar tattooartist warhero
Sparks consulting a client at Eagle River Tattoo. #baldeagle #consulting #patriotic #RogerStark #silverstar #tattooartist #warhero

After having experienced the cathartic effects of tattooing firsthand, Sparks taught himself the art form, and now tattoos other individuals to help them through their struggle with the aftermath of traumatic events. In this way, his heroism extends beyond the combat setting and into the parlor, where he helps people heal through the use of a tattoo machine instead of a tourniquet.

Recent from Stories

Ross Howerton
From Tattoodo App
The beginning of a new tattoo by Sparks. armtattoo RogerStark silverstar tattooartist warhero
The beginning of a new tattoo by Sparks. #armtattoo #RogerStark #silverstar #tattooartist #warhero

Here are a few pieces of art by Sparks to give you an idea of his style.

Ross Howerton
From Tattoodo App
Elegant painting of a coiled snake and flora by Sparks. artshare fineart flowers RogerStark silverstar snake  tattooartist warhero
Elegant painting of a coiled snake and flora by Sparks. #artshare #fineart #flowers #RogerStark #silverstar #snake #tattooartist #warhero
Ross Howerton
From Tattoodo App
Sparks' take on the famous Revolutionary War era cartoon by Benjamin Franklin with perfect lettering. BenjaminFranklin blackandwhite joinordie political RogerStark silverstar tattooartist warhero
Sparks' take on the famous Revolutionary War era cartoon by Benjamin Franklin with perfect lettering. #BenjaminFranklin #blackandwhite #joinordie #political #RogerStark #silverstar #tattooartist #warhero
Ross Howerton
From Tattoodo App
Beautiful piece be Sparks featuring a dagger piercing through a flower. artshare dagger fineart flower RogerStark silverstar tattooartist warhero
Beautiful piece be Sparks featuring a dagger piercing through a flower. #artshare #dagger #fineart #flower #RogerStark #silverstar #tattooartist #warhero

Learn more about Sparks and the amazing tattoo journey that he has gone through in the video below. 

If you want to keep up with him and his remarkable endeavors, Sparks has an excellent website and can be found on Instagram @rdsparks as well. He works at Eagle River Tattoo if you happen to be in that part of Alaska and want to drop in.


Powerton

@Ross Howerton

Originally from Oklahoma. BA in literary studies from The New School. MFA in creative writing from New Mexico State University. English teacher, published poet, and writer for Tattoodo. I love art, books, movies, music, and video games.

Follow

More from Author

We Recommend

Recent Staff Picks