This photo was everywhere yesterday, capturing the first same-sex couple chosen to deliver the ritual “first kiss” after the docking of a naval ship. (Here’s the backstory.) Beyond the glorious moment for human rights, however, the photo has a larger footprint. Even if the image appeared at some other moment than the week American forces withdrew from Iraq, it would still draw a parallel to that other famous smack, the Times Square Kiss.
Now, if fate had been different (or Hollywood had anything to do with it), the ship carrying Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta would have come into Virginia Beach chock full of Iraq War vets from the Persian Gulf rather than heralding from Central America, and her embrace with girlfriend Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, on top of the civil rights milestone, would have lined up perfectly with the Eisenstaedt photo as a VJ-style moment also.
It’s not that the end of the Iraq war didn’t deliver its own passions too, however. Consider this photo by Getty’s Mario Tama, for example, taken on Sunday in the Kuwaiti desert just across the Iraqi border. Capturing two soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division celebrating America’s final withdrawal, it as close to the Times Square kiss as the ambiguous Iraq campaign is going to get.
And, as we approach the end of 2011, in contrast to that simpler and more certain moment in 1945, this is what today’s victories look like.
(photo: The Virginian-Pilot, Brian J. Clark/AP caption: Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, kisses her girlfriend of two years, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Va., Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2011 after Gaeta’s ship returned from 80 days at sea. It ís a time-honored tradition at Navy homecomings – one lucky sailor is chosen to be first off the ship for the long-awaited kiss with a loved one. On Wednesday, for the first time, the happily reunited couple was gay. photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images caption: Specialist Ashley Walter (L) hugs Staff Sergeant Diana Royal from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division after Royal arrived in the last American military convoy to depart Iraq on December 18, 2011 in Camp Virginia, Kuwait. Around 500 troops from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division ended their presence on Camp Adder, the last remaining American base, and departed in the final American military convoy out of Iraq, arriving into Kuwait in the early morning hours of December 18, 2011. All U.S. troops were scheduled to have departed Iraq by December 31st, 2011. At least 4,485 U.S. military personnel died in service in Iraq. According to the Iraq Body Count, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died from war-related violence)