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Poignant photo of former Marine and wife goes viral: ‘America just fell in love’

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The Facebook photo of a young wife carrying her husband, who’d lost both his legs in Afghanistan, brings a heartwarming message of promise to an otherwise jaundiced world, and as a result, “America just fell in love.”

The photo that made America fall in love.
Photo credit: Sarah Ledford, ShutterHappy Photography

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Jesse Cottle of San Diego lost both legs when an improvised explosive device he was attempting to deactivate went off in 2009, according to KTVB.

“About 5 hours into that patrol, into that mission, I was struck by an anti-personnel IED,” Cottle said. “It was a pressure plate, I stepped on it and lost both legs right away.”

The incident was recorded on video by a fellow Marine wearing a helmet cam.

“I remember most everything,” he said “I was awake the whole time.”

For most active Marines, this would have been devastating, but soon after Cottle returned home he met Kelly, a beautiful, vivacious Boise State swimmer at a swim meet in San Diego.

“I just remember being very intrigued by him,” Kelly said. “He was just very different and not just because of his legs, just who he was.”

Love blossomed and a year ago they settled down in San Diego as husband and wife.

Recently, while visiting Kelly’s folks in Idaho, they invited photographer Sarah Ledford to take some family pictures. Ledford suggested one of them in the water.

Jesse and Kelly are pictured far left, along with Kelly’s family in Idaho.
Photo credit: Sarah Ledford, ShutterHappy Photography

“So we said ‘well, you can just pop off your legs and get on one of our backs and we’ll take you in’ and so, ’cause that’s just how we get around sometimes, like at the beach,” said Kelly. “It’s just pretty normal, so he hopped back on my back and then Sarah’s like ‘oh, we’ll take some couples shots.'”

Ledford posted some of the photos from the shoot on her Facebook page, and everyone went nuts over the one of Kelly carrying Jesse.

“Overwhelming, I can’t even keep up with my page,” said Ledford. “The picture just blew up, America just fell in love with Jesse and Kelly.”

One comment to the photo read, “God bless the both of you and thank you tremendously for your sacrifice for our freedom, you are a hero.”

Jesse said he’s grateful for the photo’s impact — especially when it’s not expected.

“But it’s cool because we represent a lot of people, couples that are going through the same thing and so it’s just an honor to be able to represent that,” said Kelly.

Watch the video, courtesy of KTVB.


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