A local tattoo artist is giving back to a charity dedicated to helping veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
Nathan Holdren, an Army veteran who served in the 10th Mountain Division, opened a tattoo and piercing business, VetInk’d and Pierced, with his wife Anna on Oct. 1. VetInk’d is located at 210-A Shadowrock Drive in Forsyth. Nathan works as the tattoo artist for VetInk’d, and Anna offers master level piercing and jewelry selection in the Pierced studio, according to Holdren.
Holdren has made a commitment to give at least 10% of the business’ profits to Mission 22, an organization whose motto is “When their tour is over, our mission begins.”
Holdren said he wants to help Mission 22 because their mission is something he himself feels passionate about.
“Mission 22 was actually started by three veterans, who themselves have PTSD and traumatic brain injury issues. They saw a great need for help,” Holdren said. “Unfortunately, there was really not a lot, if anything at all, in place, especially when I got out in 2008. There was nothing in place for us. It was just we were back and they said, ‘Okay well here you go, you’re back in the world again.’ It was really difficult to kind of come back. Mission 22 saw a need and is very specific to services, and actual treatment and help for veterans and their families. I really love their mission and I felt like if I had known about them before I needed them, I would have probably been in a better place much sooner than I ended up being. So, I really want to do what I can to help their mission out. They focus on a suicide prevention specifically for veterans that are dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.”
Holdren said he struggled when he returned from Afghanistan in 2008, dealing with PTSD and adjusting to being back in the states.
“I am a disabled veteran. I have dealt with suicidal thoughts because of my own PTSD and traumatic brain injury,” Holdren said.
Holdren is a disabled veteran who has struggled with his own PTSD, and suicidal thoughts, since returning home after serving his country. Holden said art saved him in a way and allows him to channel his feelings in a therapeutic way.
“I have used art, specifically in tattooing, as one of my forms of therapy,” Holdren said. “It’s very therapeutic for me. And it gives me an opportunity to kind of give back. It kind of gave me my life back, and so I want to be able to utilize that charity, if you will, because I kind of feel like that’s my cross to bear. It’s what I should do — it’s how I need to do it so that others may be able to get their lives back as well.”
Holdren explained he designed his tattoo studio to help alleviate some of the stresses and triggers those who suffer from PTSD often feel in places.
“People call tattoos ink therapy. I don’t want it to be an overwhelming environment. I don’t want the environment to be a trigger at all,” Holdren said. “I tried to make it as peaceful as possible. You know, we’ll play music and stuff, of course, but it’s never going to be overwhelming and there won’t be anything that makes anybody feel, or at least try to not make anybody feel excluded or any kind of uncomfortable. I want people to be able to come here to relax and have peer camaraderie, you know, the ability to come and talk about stuff they are needing to get off their chest while they get a piece of art themselves. Or they can even just come and say hi and take a look at the place.”
Holdren said he wants VetInk’d to be a place that veterans and their families can come to get body art done in an environment where they are around someone who understands what they have gone through.
“It can already be an overwhelming experience. Just getting the tattoo in general, is going to have a significant amount of pain to it,” Holdren said. “If there is anything I can do to try to make that experience as best as possible, especially for veteran clients and their families.”
Holdren said he has already gotten requests for veteran memorial tattoos from family members of veterans.
“I have been getting quite a few requests from family members who want to memorialize a loved one died overseas or committed suicide or whatever the case is. I want this to be as good of an experience, as positive of an experience, as possible because they’re wanting to do something that honors a loved one,” Holdren said. “It is a special honor to be chosen to create a memorial piece, especially for veterans.
VetInk’d is a family run business and Holdren’s wife Anna, who is a professional piercer, has her own studio, Pierced, connected to VetInk’d in the same building.
Holdren said his family, Anna and their five children, are his rock.
“They are the reason that I’ve stayed afloat as long as I have,” Holdren said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am right now without their support. I haven’t always been the easiest person to be around when I’m really down and when I’ve had my struggles. But they’ve all been there. It’s just been quite an amazing thing. A lot of beauty has come out of a lot of damage.”
VetInk’d also offers parents the opportunity to get tattoos or piercings without having the struggle of finding a babysitter by offering a kid friendly zone.
“Generally speaking tattoo shops are not overly friendly to having children around,” Holden said. “With a lot of shops for their setup I understand there’s not a lot of places for kids. I respect that but some places are just quite hostile to children. I’ve worked in places which were very hostile to kids even coming in. Sometimes artists won’t even tattoo the parents, because the kid will be in the shop. It made me uncomfortable being a parent.”
Holdren and his wife also realize parents can not always find someone to watch children when they want to get a tattoo or a piercing done, which is the driving force behind having a kids area set up at the studio.
“Why not get the kids involved to a little degree?” Holdren said. “I mean, I don’t want tattoos to be something scary.”
The kid friendly zone will have activities and toys for kids in a safe area where their parents can still keep an eye on them while getting their tattoos.
“We’re actually trying to finish up the kids area. We have a nice padded floor, toys for them to play with and we are looking into installing a nice gate system in the front for the little kids and getting a small television so we can have kids’ movies playing. We will even have a little table for them to draw, so they can practice their own art.”
VetInk’d and Pierced are currently open by appointment only.
For more information or to book an appointment visit ‘VetInk’d’ on Facebook or call 417-546-0524.