When he returned from Afghanistan and saw his partner waiting to welcome him home, "four years of pent-up emotion and secret love" just seemed to naturally lead to "what felt like an eternity kiss," Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan told NPR this afternoon.
In a conversation with All Things Considered producer Art Silverman, part of which will be broadcast on the show later today, Morgan discussed the kiss and the now viral photo that we blogged about Monday.
"I looked to my left" and saw Dalan Wells, his partner, Morgan said. "My legs started going numb ... and I didn't care who was around. ... I wanted to show him how much I cared for him." They've known each other for four years.
And the post-kiss reaction sparked by the photo's posting on the Web has made him "very hopeful," Morgan said, "because even though there's been a lot of negative responses, the positive responses have been overwhelming."
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy that had barred openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military ended last September.
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Here's a news item that we expect will soon not be considered news at all, but for now it is. It's a kiss, a passionate kiss. And a photo of that kiss has gone, as they say, viral.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Last week in Hawaii, Marine Sergeant Brandon Morgan returned home from deployment in Afghanistan. A friend captured him on camera, fatigues and all, kissing a man, Dalan Wells. Sergeant Morgan appears to have leapt into his arms. He's clinging to Wells. Behind them, a huge American flag draped across the airplane hanger.
SIEGEL: Sergeant Morgan told us about that moment.
SERGEANT BRANDON MORGAN: Because it is a homecoming. After four years of knowing each other and then starting a relationship within the last couple months of being deployed. So I wanted to show him how much I cared for him. And that's just has not been made very, very popular but it's been four years of just pent up emotion and secret love.
SIEGEL: Now, not only have thousands of people witnessed a spontaneous expression of life after Don't Ask Don't Tell, they also witnessed a big moment in a love story. As you might have gathered, this was their first kiss.
CORNISH: A group called Gay Marines posted the picture on its Facebook Page, and it has accumulated likes in the tens of thousands. Sergeant Morgan addressed the broader significance of the moment on a Hawaii TV station, KHON.
MORGAN: We haven't fought for more rights or better rights than others, we fought for equal rights and now we have them.
SIEGEL: As for how the Marines responded, a statement from the Marine Corps in Hawaii is simple. It says: The picture is your typical homecoming photo.
Sergeant Morgan says the response from around the world has been incredible and only some of it critical.
MORGAN: There's always going to be a few people who try to ruin it but they can't. It's impacted me and it's changed my whole view of hope. I'm very hopeful because even though there's been a lot of negative responses, the positive ones have been overwhelming.
CORNISH: The Marine and his boyfriend are not the first widely-publicized gay couple to kiss at a military homecoming. This past December, two women in the Navy shared a traditional first kiss on the dock after a ship had landed.
The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy that had barred openly gay men and women from serving in the military ended last September. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.