Boyd and Wanda Renner used to look at the stars at the same time to feel connected during their long months apart over his 28-year Navy career.
Now, the retired SEAL takes a microscopic piece of his wife with him wherever he goes: her DNA.
“I’m taking the part of my wife that’s the most significant part of her,” said Renner, 49, minutes before going under the needle for the first time in a Virginia Beach tattoo shop. “Her DNA is what makes her her. And to have that encapsulated and placed inside a tattoo for other people to see — and for me to share, if I choose to share, her story — it’s just powerful.”
Wanda Renner’s DNA is infused into a fresh tattoo on his left calf, done in her honor. The tattoo shows lungs interwoven with black and red roses, symbolic of Wanda Renner’s battle with cystic fibrosis, an incurable genetic disease that limits lung function.
DNA-infused tattoos weren’t on Renner’s radar — or really anyone’s, for that matter — until he retired from the military in 2016 and got a call from Patrick Duffy, co-founder of a Delaware-based nonprofit for wounded warriors and Gold Star families. Inspired by a Gold Star mother’s tattoo, Duffy had been brainstorming ways to take personal memorials like hers to another level.