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“Experience the tattooed memorials of Iraqi war veterans that honor fallen comrades as the Pasadena City College Art Gallery presents Mary Beth Heffernan’s exhibit, ‘The Soldier’s Skin: An Endless Edition,’ beginning Oct. 10,” it reads on the front page of the PCC website.The exhibit features freshly done tattoos, mainly memorializing fallen comrades of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Artslant.com features one of her photos, a Marine with a piece on his back of cupped hands holding the rosary, which also resemble dog tags and is inscribed with the words, “Brothers in arms, even in death, rest in peace.”

The tattoo is strikingly similar to memorial tattoos of street gang members who have also lost friends in battle, only done more professionally.

Tattoos are only a small example of how analogous the U.S. military and large street gangs are in conducting operations.
Aside from companionship and respect, the most common reasons for joining either group is the promise of obtaining wealth. “One of the biggest misconceptions about joining a gang is the thought of getting rich,” according to JoAnn Moore, author of “Into the Abyss: A personal journey into the world of street gangs.”

On the military side, young, impressionable teenagers are assured of financial security through increased signing bonuses, from $20,000 to $40,000 for enlistees. “We are looking at non-college-bound high school graduates. Getting this kind of money is significant. They get a job, a steady paycheck and enough for a down payment on a brand new car,” according to military.com a military and veterans membership organization.

The media helps keep both outfits chock full of recruits by glorifying the lifestyle of gangsters and soldiers. Gangster rap became a global phenomenon in the 1990s and continues today to sell kids on the glamorous life of gangsters. “Teens are picking up guns as a way to emulate these stars. Unless something is done these youths will be shooting at each other and at us tomorrow,” according to CNN.

“The military is now in the midst of a full-scale occupation of the entertainment industry, conducted with far more skill than the one in Iraq,” wrote Nick Turse writing for TomDispatch.com. “Perhaps the ‘front’ where the most significant victories have been scored in the military’s latest media-entertainment blitz is the one where our most vulnerable population – children – resides. Through toys, especially video games, the military and its partners in academia and the entertainment industry have not only blurred the line between entertainment and war, but created a media culture thoroughly capable of preparing America’s children for armed conflict.”

The most telling resemblance between the two is in recruiting. According to the Florida Gang Investigation Association, “Current gang members will often use peer pressure or fear and intimidation tactics to get others to join their gang.”

The military relies on the same method to get others to join their “gang.” KHOU in Houston released a voicemail of Army recruiter Sgt. Thomas Kelt leaving a message for a prospect, “OK, I know you were on your cell probably and just had a bad connection or something like that. I know you didn’t hang up on me,” he said. “Anyway, by federal law you got an appointment with me at 2 o’clock this afternoon at Greenspoint Mall, OK? That’s the Greenspoint Mall Army Recruiting Station at 2 o’clock. You fail to appear and we’ll have a warrant.

“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps,” wrote Major-General Smedley Butler in 1933. “I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

A more professional gang you could say.

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