When Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan, 25, returned home to Hawaii on Feb. 22 from a deployment in Afghanistan, he found partner Dalan Wells, 38, waiting for him. When a friend snapped a photo of their welcome-home kiss and posted it online, it quickly went viral and has been viewed tens of thousands of times on blogs and Facebook. It has been interpreted as a sign of a more open military in the wake of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Sergeant Morgan tells Matthew DeLuca how the photo came to be.
I’m originally from Oakdale, Calif. I joined the Marine Corps on April 1, 2007. I joined the Marine Corps because I had to do something different with my life. I was working a little grocery-store job as a deli clerk, not really doing anything, not really going anywhere.
I used to be a very, very fanatical Christian, not that there’s anything wrong with being a Christian, but my beliefs, my core beliefs, definitely have changed as I’ve grown up because of the way I live, the way I am. I joined the Marine Corps because I felt I wanted to be the voice of God in the Marine Corps.
I’m pretty sure people very close to me like my mother, my father, and my sister always knew that there was something different about me. I was always at the church, and had those values, had that idea that homosexuality was wrong according to the Christian faith.
Eventually, nature comes out.
I was married at one point to a woman, but that was a huge mistake, because looking through my faith beliefs I mistook a friendship and thought it was love, which it wasn’t. It took so many mistakes in my life to have the courage to know who I was.
Dalan works on the base and we actually met at the Single Marine and Sailor Program. I walked in and I saw him, and I have to say it was love at first sight. I’ve loved that man ever since I first saw him.
Dalan and I have known each other for four years, and we’ve been really good friends. He helped me through the divorce. As time went on and we were ramping up to deploy, I asked him out, as I knew who I was but couldn’t come out under the DOD policy [“don’t ask, don’t tell”].
He said no because there is a significant age difference.
Going through the deployment and having nobody to look forward to coming home to, I emailed some friends and they were like, “Yeah, sure, we’ll come see you at the airport.” At one point I just made a general comment on Facebook like, “Wow, loneliness is really starting to sink in.” And he was the first one and the only one to comment on that.
When he said that, I wrote him a very, very long email. He wrote me back, and then it was what seemed like hundreds of emails a day. Every email he sent me I would read a hundred times. Weeks just flew by and I couldn’t wait to get home, and I was like, “When I get home, I’m going to give him the best kiss I can think of.”
All my superiors are happy for me that I finally have a love, someone to be with, that I’m not always hanging out at the single Marine center on the weekend. I believe that the general consensus was that the military didn’t want this, but the people who say that can’t really speak on the behalf of my Marines. My Marines, my family, have welcomed me, they’ve been very happy for me. We’re a family. They care for me the way they always have.
I was a little worried, to be honest. I was afraid that some people’s views of me might change. But that was just my own personal misgiving, a fear I had to overcome. I should have had more faith in my Marines than that. I’m not always right, and I was very glad I was wrong about that.
Dalan and I don’t mind sharing our story if it helps people. As a Marine, I have to say first and foremost that if I had to keep this a secret, I would, but our dedication to each other would not change. My story is no different from a lot of people’s. All I can say, if I could say one thing, is don’t be afraid to be who you are.