'It gives me purpose': Walker's Point veteran finds solace and adventure as tattoo artist

NOW: ’It gives me purpose’: Walker’s Point veteran finds solace and adventure as tattoo artist

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Adrenaline can be defined as a chemical compound that makes the heart beat faster. Inside a Walker's Point shop, that compound runs from the tip of Josh Ebert's tattoo gun onto his canvas.

“It gives me purpose, it gives me like a sense of self-worth," said Ebert. “Started when I was in high school when I would just draw all over myself.”

When the ink bleeds into the skin, it's more than just a permanent form of art.

“They’re almost like scars, you know, like battle scars," said Ebert.

It's a reminder of a painful past.

"I was in the Army for 12 years," said Ebert. "Immediately after I went through my training, I went to Afghanistan and when I came back, I was kind of lost — I didn’t know what to do.”

If war is difficult to return from, it's nearly impossible to forget.

“I was pretty young and dumb and when you come back from a situation like being at war, it’s really hard to adapt back to a normal lifestyle," said Ebert.

With each impression of the needle, Ebert sews up an old wound.

“I don’t know what it is man — the physical pain takes away from emotional pain," said Ebert. You know, it’s therapeutic to tattoo, it’s just an art form.”

It's never enough to experience adrenaline just once.

“There’s a risk of dying which I think for Veterans is like yeah, I want to do that," said Ebert.

So, with a tattoo gun in tow, Ebert embarked on a new journey up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

“We got hit with this nasty storm so we’re like facing like 50 mile per hour winds. Negative 30-degree temperatures," said Ebert.

The five-day trek now holds a permanent spot in his memory and body.

"The second we got to the top, I like whipped my backpack out and pulled out all my supplies real quick and I just like tattooed myself and I tattooed somebody else while I was up there just to get it over with," said Ebert.

19,341 feet.

“It started as an idea for me and now it’s turned into words and then into actions," said Ebert.

It was a climb with a bigger purpose than Ebert, himself.

“I think it represents the beginning of something for like Epic Vets," said Ebert.

Epic Vets – a non-profit he now leads for Veterans just like him.

“Being able to affect people’s lives in a positive way means a lot more to be than what the accomplishment was to climb a mountain," said Ebert.

For those in search of the same rush, the same chemical compound Ebert found through art and adventure.

“Facing a fear and now I have a deep love for doing that. It’s super peaceful," said Ebert.

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