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War Hero Uses Tattooing as PTSD Therapy

War Hero Uses Tattooing as PTSD Therapy

Stories1 min Read

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

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.   

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

Ross Howerton
Written byRoss Howerton

BA in Literary Studies from The New School. MFA in Creative Writing from NMSU. Staff Writer for Tattoodo. I love art, books, movies, music, and video games. Hit me up on Twitter @Powertonium

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