Jacksonville sailor recreates iconic World War II photo with husband

By : Abigail Brashear
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By far, one of the most iconic photos from World War II is undoubtedly “V-J Day in Times Square.” The picture, in which a sailor non-consensually grabbed the nearest nurse and kissed her, has been recreated in movies, social media posts and more recently, by a Jacksonville couple who just couldn’t wait to see one another.

Bryan Woodington had been stationed in the Persian Gulf and eastern Europe since May, working aboard the USS The Sullivans. The guided missile-destroyer navigated over 40,000 miles and supported maritime security operations over the course of the seven-month deployment.

He and his husband, Ken Woodington, were awarded the ceremonial first homecoming kiss by raffle. The raffle, which gained tickets by donations of the sailors’ partners, was something that Ken took part of every chance he got. He was confident that they would win.

“I was putting $20 in every month,” Ken says.

The couple had only been married for a year and was excited to see one another. Bryan recalled how happy he was to hear the announcement that he and Ken had won the raffle. Bryan had been taking a nap and woke up the moment he heard his name.

“It felt like Christmas Day,” he says with a laugh.

When the two finally saw each other for the first time, Ken immediately ran over to Bryan and hugged him, crying happy tears. The two kissed, and everyone around them began cheering.

HOMECOMING: Bryan and Ken Woodington recreate the iconic “V-J in Times Square” photo in Jacksonville. Photo courtesy the Woodingtons

The photograph of the Woodingtons’ kiss quickly went viral: Naval Station Mayport’s Facebook post of the couple has almost 3,000 shares, and nearly 4,000 reactions. However, not all reactions were positive. News 4 Jax’s coverage prompted several angry responses.

“Doesn’t change the fact that it’s gross and unnatural,” Bobby Dean wrote in response to a comment on how the Woodington’s photo is better than the original, due to its non-consensual nature.

“I don’t care what the navy does I don’t think it should have been shown as news. Kids were watching that and parents had to explain how wrong it is,” commented Ray Schaefer.

“It didn’t really bother me,” Kenneth told News 4 Jax, the local station that covered the homecoming. “Honestly, I’m the type of person who doesn’t really care that much about what people say.”

Bryan repeatedly expressed how supportive everyone has been about the experience. He says he’s received emails from all over the world and that the couple is being treated like LGBTQ activists. It’s something he said he finds surprising, and that a kiss between two men should be considered normal.

“People, in this day and age, should not be afraid to express who they love, regardless of race, sex or gender,” Bryan says.

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