DOZENS of people trying to come to terms with the death of airman Ryan Tomlin have had tattoos in his memory.
Following last week’s Gazette article on sisters Melissa and Siobhan Ford, who were inked in memory of their 21-year-old cousin, many more have revealed their tributes to the former Astley Cooper schoolboy.
Among them is Ryan’s 33-year-old sister Michelle Whittle who had a tattoo on her back. It shows angel wings along with Ryan’s name, his date of birth, the date he died and the RAF motto Per Ardua Ad Astra – which means ‘through adversity to the stars’.
The mum-of-two, who lives in Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town, said: “I wanted something that is permanent, that is with me forever.
“I think he would think we were all mad having his name inked on us for life but I think he would appreciate it. It shows how proud we are of him for paying the ultimate sacrifice.”
Since having the tattoo in Ryan’s honour, which is her first, she has added the names of her children, aged 12 and 14, to the artwork.
Ryan’s life was cut short when he was wounded by small arms fire while on patrol in Afghanistan back in February.
In Liverpool other family members have also had tattoos. Among them are Ryan’s uncle Peter Whitaker, his son Michael Whitaker, 19, and daughter Leanne Whitaker, 21, Ryan’s auntie Eileen Whitaker, 57, and her daughter Joanne Morris, 31
Peter, who had a cross with Ryan’s name created on his right forearm, said: “It is something that will always be there so when I look at it I can always think of him.”
Leanne’s tattoo is based around the Tornado jet that flew over Hemel Hempstead to mark the beginning of Ryan’s funeral at St Mary’s Church in Old Town. She said: “I believe, truly, that he was a hero.”
Also in Liverpool is Emma Youds, 24, another of Ryan’s cousins, who has had a tattoo carrying the words ‘forever in my heart’ inked onto her right forearm.
“Ryan would have loved it,” she said.
Beverley Whitaker, of Gammon Close, Bennetts End, is keeping cousin Ryan very close to her heart with a tattoo on her chest.
“The way I look at tattoos is when you pass away they are the only thing you can take with you – that symbolises that I’m going to be taking a little piece of him with me when I die,” said the 23-year-old.
Ryan’s pals have also made the life-long tribute. Kirsti Ward, 21, had the RAF motto inked on her right forearm.
She said: “When people come up to you and ask you what your tattoo is it is quite nice to tell them.
“Ryan would probably say we are all being soppy but he would probably be loving the attention.”
Three former Astley Cooper schoolboys – Lee Waryszniuk, Tom Fitzgerald and Otis Ogle – have had matching tattoos in Ryan’s honour.
Security engineer Lee, 22, has had two tattoos done – one on his right bicep that reads ‘Ryan Tomlin forever in our hearts’ and another on his left inner forearm with the words ‘Remember if you are not living life on the edge then you are taking up too much room’ – something that Ryan wrote in a letter to pals before going on tour.
This phrase has also been tattooed onto pal Mark Tricker’s left forearm. The 22-year-old, who used to walk home from school with Ryan, said: “He was such a good friend and a good guy.”
>Wristbands have been created in memory of Ryan to raise money for Help for Heroes and SSAFA Forces Help. So far around 1,300 have been sold, raising more than £4,000 and another 1,000 wristsbands have just been ordered.
On Friday a pub fundraiser is being held at the Three Blackbirds in Boxmoor from 7pm. There will be a raffle, an auction including football memorabilia, sponsored head shaving and waxings.
The money raised will be split between the two armed forces charities. To donate raffle prizes email email@example.com