Sarah Ledford / ShutterHappy Photography
This is love.
An inspirational photo of a woman giving her double-amputee marine husband a piggyback ride went viral today, after the photographer, Sarah Ledford, posted the picture to her Facebook page.
And although the snapshot alone has the power to bring a smile to your face, Kelly Forrester Cottle and Jesse Cottle's backstory proves to be one of the most heartwarming love stories ever told.
According to ABC News, Jesse, 28, lost both of his legs in Afghanistan in 2009 after stepping on an IED, which was all caught on video by a fellow marine wearing a helmet camera. The footage was even used in a documentary about Jesse called Coming Home.
"If I hadn't stepped on that IED I wouldn't have met her," Jesse told ABC News. "I wouldn't take it back ever."
After spending months recovering in the hospital, Jesse met his future wife Kelly, 24, in San Diego while on one of his first outings with his new prosthetic legs. "His personality and who he is just outweighs his injuries by so much that you forget about it after a while," Kelly explained.
The professional photo was taken while the couple was visiting family in Idaho, however that specific pose was not planned.
"Someone had suggested taking photos in the water," Kelly said. "I was carrying Jesse back to his legs, and the photographer was like, ‘Oh we'll get a couple of shots of you together.' It wasn't planned or anything."
Jesse added, "The photo really says it all. I actually look at it very much as a symbol for our whole relationship in general. She's physically carrying me, but there's times where she's carrying me emotionally. It's a perfect representation of who Kelly is."
Ledford said, "It's an amazingly inspiring story that has touched the lives of many Americans. Jesse is not a hero for stepping on an IED, he's a hero because of the way he has handled what was handed to him and how he chooses to continue to conduct his life with his positive attitude."
The pair celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Aug. 18.