Athol resident in the running for Inked Magazine cover

By MAX BOWEN

Athol Daily News Editor

Published: 03-10-2023 7:59 PM

Each of Deanna Cohen’s tattoos tells a story.
Some honor people she has lost. Others commemorate fellow soldiers met during her eight years as a Marine. Some offer important life lessons.

Cohen, 34, has 28 tattoos in total and is hoping to show off some on the cover of Inked Magazine. An Athol resident, Cohen has entered a competition to be on a future issue, along with a $25,000 cash prize and two sessions with tattoo artist Ryan Ashley, which Cohen said is valued at $10,000. Ashley has been featured on the show “Ink Master.”

“I’d love to give her (Ashley) basic ideas of what I like and tell her a bit about my story and see what she comes up with,” Cohen said. “If you let [the artist] run with it, they come up with amazing stuff.”

A lifetime in ink

Cohen got her first tattoo at Altered Images in Rhode Island for her 18th birthday. Many of the others were done while serving in the Marines or at tattoo parlors in Boston and Rhode Island. She joked that her mother’s attitude toward this has “taken a journey” over the years, supportive at first and then waning a bit as she got more. Cohen would get a tattoo on her right side and then on the left and then in the middle. Many are to memorialize people in her life who have died.

“I keep them with me and keep the lessons that I learned with me,” she said.

Cohen has a Marine Corps tattoo on her left shoulder (the second one she got) and one depicting the iconic image of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima, a battle during World War II when the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy landed on and eventually captured the island from the Imperial Japanese Army. Having served in Okinawa, Japan, Cohen said she learned much about the culture and is in awe of those who served.

“These men had to go through so much,” Cohen said. “I was very impressed and moved by it all. I keep those lessons and keep that mentality as much as I could.”

Among the many other tattoos that Cohen has is one of a pair of scissors in a field of flowers, a dreamcatcher, a colorful bird, and a cactus with some bandages on it and the words “broken but cute.”

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When asked about her favorite tattoo, Cohen said it’s a somewhat creepy stitch doll with the stuffing coming out, and the doll holding the needle and trying to repair the damage. She said the message of that tattoo is that everyone has things going on in their lives and sometimes you get knocked down.

“It’s up to us to pull yourselves back together,” she said.

Years of service

Cohen joined the Marines at age 20. She was living in Rhode Island at the time working as a hairdresser and seeking a new path. After meeting with a recruiter, she began Basic Training in 2008. She said at the time, only 6% of those in the Armed Forces were female, and only 1% in the Marines.

In December 2016, she was honorably discharged and used the G.I. Bill to receive a degree in criminal justice. Cohen’s first plan was to become a U.S. marshal, as some of her time in the Marines was spent transporting prisoners. But when an 18-month hiring freeze at the Marshals put a stop to those plans, she got a degree in business and is now enrolled in a two-year woodworking program at North Bennet Street School in Boston. She hopes to open her own business after she’s completed the program.

“I love taking something raw, this big piece of lumber, and someone has an idea and you just run with it,” she said.

Cohen is also a member of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, comprised of members of the Marines and Navy Corpsman who have been honorably discharged. The club does charity work, much of which is centered on helping local Veterans of Foreign Wars branches and servicemen and woman in need.

Community support

The voting process for the cover contest at Inked Magazine includes several rounds to narrow down the participants, who are organized into different groups. The top 10 round ended on March 2, with Cohen in first place. The voting for the top entrant in each group will conclude on March 16, and there will be four more rounds after that, with the winner being chosen April 13.

Cohen said it’s difficult to put herself in the spotlight, but is happy when she hears from friends who have been voting for her every day. Should she win, Cohen plans to use the prize money to update her motorcycle and take a cross-country trip.

“The network of people I have in my life are so amazing, I am just absolutely floored,” she said. “I don’t always like to be in the spotlight, I like to be that helpful person in the background that everyone can be counted on for.”

Max Bowen can be reached at mbowen@recorder.com. 

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