Sgt. Brandon Morgan and his partner embrace after returning from a recent deployment. (Photo Credit: Gay Marines Facebook Page)
KANEOHE (KGMB) - A kiss is still a kiss, right?
A Hawaii couple wasn't planning on becoming famous or making splashy headlines, but the pair's happy homecoming has done just that.
In 1945, an impromptu kiss in Times Square New York for V-J Day - between a sailor and a nurse - chronicled a generation. In 2012, it's another kiss that could be changing one.
Last Wednesday, during a routine homecoming at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, 25 year old Sergeant Brandon Morgan jumped into the waiting arms of his new boyfriend, Dalan Wells. The image - framed by the American flag - is going viral and getting thousands of Facebook comments nationwide.
"We've known each other for four years, but we only just started going out this last deployment," explains Morgan. "And I've known how I've felt about him - ever since we've met but had to keep it down."
"Down" because it's only been six months since the Don't ask, Don't tell law was repealed. Without it, the couple says they'd likely have reunited with a simple handshake.
"Apparently this photo has been dubbed 'The Kiss Seen or Heard 'Round the World' and is breaking barriers," says Morgan. "People feel more confident to live their own life and be truthful to who they know they are."
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The couple started dating via Facebook two months ago - while Morgan was on his third overseas deployment in four years.
"That's why that kiss was so crazy. It was the first kiss!" says Wells.
A friend snapped the photo of the two, and they had no idea when they posted it on Facebook that it would take off. Gay rights groups are cheering.
"It's pretty much electrified the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community within the military," says Petty Officer Jeffry Priela, the Hawaii chapter leader of OutServe, a national gay rights group for servicemembers.
The military does have standards of conduct when it comes to public displays of affection. The couple wanted to make clear that they do respect those codes. They say this was a homecoming event, and they were celebrating like everyone else. Otherwise, when in uniform, Morgan says - no PDA.
Morgan's unit, the Lucky Red Lions heavy helicopter squadron, was involved in the helicopter crash in Helmand province last January. Six of his fellow Marines died. It's made Morgan appreciate life, and he hopes to help others who may be troubled.
"A lot of people have made me out to be sort of a media superstar or some hero or a great American icon, but I'm not the hero. I've said this before. The people who are the heroes are the ones who blazed the trail before so we can do this," explains Morgan.
It's a sign of the changing times - sealed with a kiss.
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