Marine Corps vet turned tattoo artist raises thousands for Toys for Tots

John says even though he's retired, he's happy to give Joshua a permanent way to remember his grandfather. (Image: WTVC)

A Marine Corps veteran is getting recognized for not only his years of service to our country, but for raising money for the Toys for Tots program.

He broke records a few years ago, holding the world's longest tattoo session, now his military comrade wants to thank him.

Jessica Harthorn shows us the emotional surprise in this week's Pay It Forward.

John Cross proudly served our country in the Marine Corps from 1997 until 2005.

He did a tour in Fallujah, Iraq before heading back to Tennessee.

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It was there he picked up his love of the arts in the form of a tattoo gun.

You may remember hearing about John Cross several years ago.

Our NewsChannel 9 cameras were rolling in 2007, when he was attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest tattooing session.

Three years later, he broke his own record at 50 hours and commemorated the accomplishment with a tattoo of his own.

But the Marine Corps vet had a purpose, to collect as much money and gifts as possible for Toys for Tots.

The fundraising became a holiday tradition for over a decade.

"Instead of him taking money for the tattoos, he would donate that money for the Toys for Tots," said Cleveland Police Officer Joshua Nix.

It was Officer Nix who recruited John to the Marine Corps several years ago, and says they've been brothers every since.

It's why he wanted John to add to his tattoo today, in memory of his grandfather who died a few weeks ago.

A few minutes later we arrived at Joshua's tattoo appointment and found John waiting for him in the parking lot.

"Hey John, what's up my brother?" asked Joshua as he walked up.

"How are ya?" said John.

"Doing all right my man, I just wanted to say on behalf of NewsChannel 9 and the McMahan law Firm, I just want to Pay it Forward to you my brother, for everything you've done for the community. I just want to Pay It Forward to you, hold out your hand. $100, $200, $300, $400, $500. Love you brother," hugged Joshua.

Moments later Joshua jumped into the chair, and John began to free hand his design, and then it was down to business.

"For years, I thought of myself as a tattoo artist, and then I realized I'm just an artist that likes to tattoo," said John.

John says even though he's retired, he's happy to give Joshua a permanent way to remember his grandfather, and that continuing to contribute to the Toys for Tots program will also be a lasting tradition.

Do you know someone who deserves $500 cash for helping others? Nominate them here!

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