By Jeff Switzer, Herald Writer
Sam Bloomfield presses his hands together and casts his eyes skyward in thanks for his country.
Under his left eye: “God Bless America.”
Under his right: “Land of the Free.”
Even larger across his forehead is “USA.”
He wants people to read the words inked into his skin and think about them, a walking testament to free speech. They are saturated with a love for his adopted country that he has carried for decades.
At Bloomfield’s house, it’s always the Fourth of July.
He grew up poor in an island hut on Tonga, where they see the sunrise before the rest of the world. He stowed away on a boat from American Samoa to California, and later got his green card in 1976.
He was drawn by stories of opportunity and images of money as abundant as suburban grass clippings.
But it takes hard work to live here, he says, and that’s a lesson he shares with his children and grandchildren. He spends his days cutting and packaging crab and salmon at a seafood warehouse.
He pumps iron every other day, his 58-year-old body a carefully maintained canvas filled with provocative words, phrases and pictures.
To share his love of country, he first painted his house red and white, and later added a blue shingle roof. Streamers and little flags are everywhere.
When a flag fades, he replaces it. When neighborhood kids yank off his patriotic holiday lights, he restrings them.
Bloomfield searched to find a tattoo artist who would help him fulfill his dream of a tribute to the American flag he could see each morning in the mirror.
Last year, he began a three-month transformation of his face.
He held still for two hours at a time as the tattoo grew. First the blue field and stars. Then came the red stripes. Fifteen hours, $1,500.
In his mind, through the pain, he said “Thank you God. I want the American flag on my face.”
Sometimes the sight of the tattoo shocks people. Others are quick to cheer their approval. His wide and honest grin bears no intended insult to the honor of the flag.
“I want the whole world to see it.”
Head to toe, Bloomfield has more than 100 tattoos, including the flags of 20 countries. Most were done by hand by his wife of 17 years, Dora. On his spine is a familiar yellow ribbon: “Support Our Troops.”
He recently wrote President Bush, thanking him for his economic stimulus check, but also asking how the government might help keep people from losing their homes during these tough times.
When people complain about feeling poor, Bloomfield says the government has food and shelter for those in need. He remembers the hut in Tonga and said he knows real poverty. He’s proud to work to pay his bills.
If the president asked him to fight in Iraq, he would. Some in the world don’t like Americans, but that’s the way life is, he says.
“Who cares? America is the best country in the world! America is like a police officer, stepping in to make others shake hands. We don’t sit down and watch people die. America steps in there to help.”