Kelly Cottle's picture of her carrying her husband, double amputee and retired Marine Jesse Cottle, on her back in a river has gone viral. The depiction of love between the couple inspired many viewers to comment and share the photo, causing it to spread like wildefire.
Kelly Cottle and her husband Jesse met at a swim meet in San Diego while he was recovering from the recent loss of his legs. Jesse stepped on an IED in 2009 during his tour in Afghanistan. The resulting explosion left him forever changed.
"About 5 hours into that patrol, into that mission, I was struck by an anti-personnel IED," Jesse told KTVB.com. "It was a pressure plate, I stepped on it and lost both legs right away."
She attended the swim meet because she was a swimmer for Boise State. Something about him sparked her interest.
"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."
Just three years later, the pair was married. They now live in San Diego, and were visiting family in Idaho and taking photographs when the now-famous picture was shot. The photographer, Sarah Ledford, managed to snap the iconic photo when Jesses and Kelly were in the water; because Jesse had his prosthetic legs off at the moment, he was piggybacking on his wife's back.
"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," Kelly explained. "It's just pretty normal, so he hopped back on my back and then Sarah's like 'oh, we'll take some couples shots.'"
After Ledford posted the pictures to the ShutterHappy Photography Facebook page, it went viral quickly.
"Amazing picture and an amazing couple," wrote Annie Barone Donnelly on Facebook. "God bless this man for giving so much to our country and God bless his beautiful wife for seeing this amazing person for the hero he is and for her love and compassion."
"Thank you both for being an inspiration to us all. From one Marine to another, thanks for your sacrifice and your ability to keep marching on!" posted Craig Martinez.