Healing from Hate: Covering up the marks and moving on

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COLORADO SPRINGS — FOX21 first introduced you to John Waldron back in October of 2019.

He’s still got more hate tattoos to get covered, and thanks to Fallen Heroes Tattoo and Art’s Redemption Ink, it’s all free.

“You can say you’re moving on, and you can physically say ‘I’m going to do things differently,’ but with those marks on you, it’s hard for the rest of the world to say, ‘Oh, they’ve changed.’ Or say, ‘hey, let me not have judgment against you from the first time that we meet,” said David Brown, co-owner of Fallen Heroes Tattoo and Art.

Since starting the nonprofit in 2017, the tattoo shop has helped cover up hateful tattoos for more than 20 people; helping them move forward.

Now there’s a waitlist of 400 across the country and a new support group.

Michael Kent, Fallen Hero’s very first Redemption Ink project, now travels the world sharing his story.

“The ones that are getting their tattoos covered up for this, we’re coming together and we’re being support systems for other people, letting them know they’re not alone,” Kent said. “I ended up spending about 17 years of my life locked up. I had two swastikas, I had the ‘white pride’ on my back, I had ‘1488’, I had ‘FTW’, I had a lot of tattoos,” Kent added.

Kent says he fell into a life of hate at the age of 12, seeking out white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups.

“I think it’s human nature. A lot of people follow that group mentality, whether it’s a good group or bad group. It’s somewhere to belong. And I think people see that and participate in that and eventually go, ‘hm, that might not have been the best decision I ever made,'” Brown said.

The shift in Kent’s life started with his probation officer, Tiffany Whittier, who encouraged him to drop his old life and beliefs.

“The people I was supposed to hate, end up bringing me back to love,” Kent said.

Now with his body free of offensive markings, he wants others looking to do the same to know they’re not alone.

“We know it’s rough, we know it’s hard. We went through these steps. I still get threats three years later from me walking away from this lifestyle,” Kent said.

“The tattoo doesn’t change anybody. The person changes. And we kind of cement that change for them. We kind of make that, ‘okay you want a clean slate? This is about as clean as we can get it,'” Brown said.

Kent is planning to write a book based on his experiences.

He plans to speak at a Christian academy in Texas next.

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