A photo of a former staff sergeant who lost his legs in Afghanistan being carried on his wife’s back has gone viral on Facebook — here is the story behind the picture.
Former Marine Staff Sgt. Jesse Cottle told KTVB in Idaho that he joined the Corps in 2003. The explosive ordinance disposal Marine was on a foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2009 when he stepped on a pressure plate that triggered a blast. Cottle was left a double amputee, having lost his legs after struck by an anti-personnel improvised explosive device.
The explosion was caught on camera, KTVB reported, as one of his fellow Marines was wearing a helmet-cam. Cottle told the news station he remembers almost everything about the attack, and that he was awake in the aftermath.
Cottle told KTVB that he credits his recovery to being surrounded by good friends, family and his faith. He said he was lucky to be able to have the chance to go through the recovery as opposed to losing his life on the battlefield.
It was during his long recovery that he met his wife, Kelly, at a swim meet. The couple married in 2012 and they now live in San Diego, Calif. They were recently in Idaho for Kelly’s family reunion, KTVB reported, and that’s when they had some family portraits taken.
When the photographer suggested they take a few photos in the water, Cottle popped his prosthetic legs off and his wife carried him on her back, which is how she said she helps him get around.
“We do it all the time,” she told KTVB. “It’s just pretty normal so he hopped on my back and [the photographer]said we’ll take some couple shots.”
The photographer, Sarah Ledford, posted one of those photos to her Facebook page on Aug. 17. She told KTVB she had no idea it would prompt the reaction it has gotten.
The photo has been “liked” nearly 9,000 times and has been shared by more than 1,200 users. Almost 500 people have commented on the photo to tell the couple that their love is an inspiration.
“America just fell in love with Jesse and Kelly,” Ledford, who owns ShutterHappy Photography, told KTVB.
Kelly said she feels like they represent what what a lot of people are going through after the wars. It’s an honor to be able to represent that, she told KTVB.