Military Couple's Photo Prompts Outpouring of Support

Now home in San Diego, the reality of their new found viral fame is hitting the military couple

By Nicole Gonzales and R. Stickney
|  Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013  |  Updated 2:46 PM CDT
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Jesse and Kelly Cottle say the reaction to their family photo has humbled them and, at times, left them speechless. NBC 7's Nicole Gonzales reports.

Jesse and Kelly Cottle say the reaction to their family photo has humbled them and, at times, left them speechless. NBC 7's Nicole Gonzales reports.

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How Iconic Image Was Snapped

San Diego Marine wife Kelly Cottle explains what led up to the moment a photographer captured an image of her carrying her wounded war veteran husband Jesse Cottle resulting in an image that has earned thousands of comments on Facebook.
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An image of a San Diego Marine and his wife taken last week while vacationing in Idaho has become a national sensation.

Special Section: San Diego Military News

In the picture, Kelly Cottle is carrying her husband Jesse Cottle, a war veteran and double amputee, on her back.

The moment – very natural and routine for the couple – was captured during a recent family photo shoot.

When the photographer suggested a group picture in the water, she was unsure how Jesse would manage.

“He'll just take his legs off, and we can carry him in and get the photos, so that's how it came about,” Kelly explained. “It was all pretty spur-of-the-moment.”

The result was a candid photo that has captured America’s hearts.

Through the photographer’s Facebook page, the image has received thousands of likes, shares and comments.

Now home in San Diego, the reality of their new found viral fame is hitting the military couple.

While the media attention may be surreal and bizarre, the couple said it’s the reaction of people across the country that has meant the most. At times, the comments have left them speechless.

“That’s why it’s the best thing to me to know that those are the kinds of people that are out there and they do care,” Kelly said.

It’s a very humbling story when you consider how it all began.

Helmet cam video captured the Marine Staff Sergeant's IED-clearing mission in 2009. About five hours into mission, Jesse was struck by an IED.

He has come a long way since.

“My faith carried me through,” Jesse said.

He’s thankful for the opportunity to go through the process of learning to live with his injuries.

“Plenty of my friends and other friends and family members, as everyone knows, don’t make it back at all and don’t have that opportunity,” he said.

The act of Kelly carrying him on piggyback is not unusual. It’s a natural and easy way they get around other situations like visiting the beach. However Jesse understands the message the photo sends.

“It really represents just any adversity that anyone is dealing with,” Jesse said. “It represents just getting through day by day and having a positive attitude and overcoming.”

“It's inspiring to me and to us that our nation does hold military in that type of regard, and holds a woman who can carry her husband figuratively and physically at times in high regard as well,” Jesse said. “That humbles me and inspires me.”

“I just remind myself that if we can have a positive impact or encourage anyone out there, it's worth it,” said Kelly.

And as if this story needed any other positive result, it’s also been a boost for the photographer, who was on maternity leave at the time of the Cottles’ shoot. Jesse and Kelly said the woman’s phone has been ringing nonstop.
 

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