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Gay marine, partner reflect on first kiss seen around the globe: 'The world went away for a few minutes'

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

A kiss is just a kiss unless you're a couple of strapping hunks and one is a U.S. Marine coming home from war to his male partner.

Then a Facebook photo of the big smooch goes viral and becomes a news event covered around the world.

Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan returned Feb. 22 from Afghanistan to Hawaii and jumped into partner Dalan Wells' arms. (Morgan is 5-feet 11-inches tall; Wells is 6-foot-6.)

A friend, David Lewis, photographed the family reunion.

"With all that was going on, we didn’t even know he was there taking pictures," Morgan says. "The world went away for a few minutes."

Morgan later posted the homecoming photos on his personal Facebook page and a friend then reposted the pictures on the Gay Marines page.

Within hours Sunday, the main photo had thousands of views and had been reposted on countless other pages. News stories ran worldwide. As of Tuesday, it had about 37,000 Facebook "likes" and nearly 9,000 comments.

"I can only imagine that it went viral because we were the first men to kiss," Morgan says. Shortly after the U.S. military ended it's gay ban late last year, two female Navy petty officers publicly kissed at a Virginia homecoming ceremony.

One of the couple's Facebook friends sent at critical message to Morgan's mother, driving her to tears.

"What did you do to mess up as a mother to make him do this?" read the comment.

Says Morgan, a Christian who grew up in Oakdale, Calif., near Modesto: "She loves me and my sister, who's a lesbian. She said, if you don't like my children and how I raised them, I don't care. My mother is awesome!"

Morgan, 25, and Wells, 38, have been dating about a month-and-a half and that they've known each other a few years.

"I honestly knew I was in love with him from the first moment I met him," Morgan says, adding that before he came out he had made "a lot of mistakes," including marrying a woman.

During Morgan's six months in Afghanistan, "there was nonstop letter writing every day."

Wells, an oil painter in Oahu, says that when Morgan first asked him out, he said no.

"I didn’t know how much he loved me and how much I was in love with him," Wells says.

The photographed kiss was their first, says Morgan, who re-enlisted in the Marines in October and plans to stay in the military about 3 1/2 more years.

The men say they plan to work with the gay military group Outserve.

Wells says he's not bothered by the sudden fame. "I’m a very shy person," Wells says. "If this helps one troubled teen and gives them hope for the future, if I can help, I will."

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These two men are truly inspirational.

God bless these men-god bless America.

Welcome home Marine. Thank you for your service. I hope you find much happiness and love.

People throwing stones (and many are hiding their hands AFTER throwing the stones)! So many people want others to "be just like them" -- then, if others become just like them, they will later find fault with that. Those who hate will certainly find their justice. And for those who need to throw up, do so after looking in the mirror!

Wonderful! Long overdue! Love wins out! To the backward, intolerant, anti-gay bigots posting here: if you don't like it, tough luck.

i am so happy right now...i'm still here and have lost so many friends that will never hear this fantastic story! i can only hope that my god ( yes i said "god") will allow them to hear it in my heart. thank you for your service to this country and your commitment to each other.

You guys are great. Best wishes to you both. Marine...thanks for your service and you stay safe. And to you "Straight Pride," all I can say is until someone can dig up a few of the Founding Fathers and make them sit up and talk for themselves, I really don't want to hear any more about what they'd think.

I understand why some people might have a problem with this photo. It is kind of shocking to see two men kissing, especially since one of them is a Marine. But let's face it. There have and always will be gay and lesbian people. They're not going away. It's time to move past the hatred and let everyone just live their lives...


I THINK THAT'S A BEAUTIFUL THING

GOOD FOR THESE GUYS! THEY HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO KISS THEIR LOVED ONE AS ANY STRAIGHT BIGOTED REDNECK DOES!

Blatant show of affection. Please guys, not in public.

Gay or straight... if you served your country your a hero to me!!!

I'm sure you have similar problems with straight homecoming kisses, PO1. Not.

But whatever. History is headed in the right direction, regardless of those with closed minds.

This should be a non-event to all those whom have never served. As a Marine the only problem I have is that SGT Morgan violated regulations and simple Marine Corps etiquette by leaping into his boyfriends arms while in uniform. Good for them if they are in love but no matter if you are straight or gay, you are a Marine first. My best friend in the Marinesis gay and probably the best Marine I served with. He too showed contempt for SGT Morgan not acting like a "Marine before a queen." Thanks for your service SGT Morgan. Semper Fi now keep those boots on the deck.

Would agree absolutely with the breach of regs. Power to you if you want to have your splashy homecoming embrace/straddle. Just change into your civvies first. Setting an example as a Marine NCO and adhering to a code doesn't stop just because you're back from a stint in a combat zone.

A great photo of real joy seeing someone you care about. Ignore the haters. Why try to change the minds of haters when you can focus on those who cares about you. Haters are unhappy people whose only joy is turning others into unhappy, unfulfilled people as well. There's a place for those people-church! You have only one life to live, so live well, live kind, and live happy. I find that it takes too much energy to change the minds of those who hates and that it's easier to just ignore them and focus on living a loving life as meant to be.

I don't know why closed minded people only think of sex when mentioning the word gay. There are a lot of Christian conservatives out there, I would puke if I was to think of them in the same regard. Eewwww! LOL

One small step for homosexuals, One giant leap for mankind.

I see a lot of comments about how this was against regulations, and I'm sure most of us in (like myself) or supporting the LGBT community can agree with that, but everyone steps out of line sometimes. I just find it awful that so many hateful and homophobic comments are being posted about this.

One of these days haters will be shunned like the KKK. Amazing how unabashed bigots are in today's society. Aren't they even embarassed about their ignorance and outright inhumanity. Vic, Scmit, "No homosexual", you people are the nauseating and sick ones. I bet you'd love to live in Iran where gays are publicly executed. I'll send you all a one-way ticket, my treat

Absolutely disgusting!

That was hot ........
Everybody take a chill pill.
Its just a love.

its so cute !!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey Dalan and Brandon,
You have no idea how much your story warms our hearts!
I am not from the USA but have family there, and as a more or less out gay man have followed DADT closely.
The pictures are of their time,and give hope to millions of gay folk worldwide.
All the nasty messages come from folk who will never understand,& need to fall back on entrenched prejudices when their value system is threatened, because they can't think for themselves.
You both represent the future. Thanks to people like you, more an more of us are able to live absolutely normal lives together with each other, without fear, thanks to your first public kiss. All gay people owe you both a huge debt of gratitude. Malcolm & Sam.

He served for our country, and people have the audacity to bash him? Last time i checked, we live in a nation that thrives on our supposed "Freedom" I think it's hilarious that several people bring religion into this. Last time i checked, Jesus has 2 dads.

C'est bon et merveilleux. J'espère qu'ils ont une belle vie ensemble.

Good for the men in the article!
To the homophobes that object: your kind is rapidly dying off. It's adorable watching you people squirm as you become even less relevant with every passing day.

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