Marines stationed at Beaufort might think of their hamlet as a run-of-the-mill military town populated with barbershops and tattoo parlors, but there’s so much more to this South Carolina town. From its historic homes to its gorgeous beaches, it’s more than just a military base. In fact, Beaufort is one of the most interesting and unique military towns you’ll ever see.

The town’s residents embrace its southern charm, and the local tattoo shops are no exception. From a minimalist fine-line style to old-school traditional tattoos, the shops draw both local and vacationing clientele from all over the state. The Beaufort area is also home to a variety of tattoo artists, who have established themselves in the community through word-of-mouth and social media.

For many Marines, memorial Beaufort tattoos are a way of remembering fallen comrades and honoring their legacy. According to Beaufort-area tattoo artists, they range from the battlefield cross to illustrations of dog tags or even inscriptions of the deceased’s names and dates of death. Other commemorative tattoos, like Cpl. Garrett Adams’s three cards, two 7s and a joker, are more personal and less obvious to everyone else but the wearer.

Whether it’s a tribute to a friend or a mark of survivor’s guilt, tattoos are a deeply personal and symbolic form of art. A poll conducted by Psychology Today found that 25% of people surveyed said they got a tattoo because it reminded them of a significant person or event in their lives, while 10% said they did so to show their commitment to a cause.

While the new Marine Corps policy has some people up in arms, others welcome it with open arms. Many veterans say that tattoos were an integral part of their military experience and feel the change is a step in the right direction. “If it helps keep our guys safe, that’s a good thing,” Cpl. Ruppert says.

The city’s history with tattooing goes back to the 1860s, when Beaufort native Samuel Smalls returned from slavery and bought his former master’s house and took care of his widow until her death. He later served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the first black Congressman from South Carolina.

In 1961, the City banned tattooing, but some artists kept it going underground. Some became known as tattooers of the Bowery, with names such as Coney Island Freddie and Brooklyn Blackie, while others operated salons in Hell’s Kitchen or Staten Island.

In 1997, NYC legalized and regulated tattooing. Now, there are almost 300 tattoo shops across the city that offer a wide range of styles from Japanese to American. Tattooing has been an important form of expression for the city’s residents and visitors since its inception.