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Video: Injured vet, girlfriend speak out on love story photos

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    >>> back at 7:41. every once in a while you see something on the internet that stops you in your tracks. for millions of people, one of those moments came recently with 22 images of a couple whose love has survived against all odds. we're going to talk to them in a moment, but first their story. if one picture is worth a thousand words , taylor morris and danielle kelly have enough words to last a lifetime. among them courage, honor and devotion. their story found a home on the internet, often ridiculed for being mean and cynical, and where every day thousands of pictures are uploaded in dizzying fashion but a gallery of just 22 images made people stop and take notice of a love story . taylor and danielle became sweet hearts in high school , and shortly after graduating in 2007 , taylor joined the navy. last may in afghanistan, a routine mission to clear explosive devices , turned tragic.

    >> i went right over something that didn't go off, didn't register on the detector at all and exploded basically.

    >> taylor had stepped on an improvised explosive device .

    >> i knew my legs were gone and at that time i had my left hand on there and knew my right arm was gone.

    >> when danielle heard the news from an official, she was distraught.

    >> i was actually on the way to work with my friend, and i think i just like dropped the phone and screamed and couldn't hear anything else and then he said it again. he said he lost both legs, and we think both arms as of now.

    >> but taylor 's story is one of survival and love, thanks in large part to danielle who has been with him every step of the way throughout his recovery. their unbreakable bond was recently documented as a touching photo blog on buzzfeed titled "a love story in 22 pictures."

    >> keep going.

    >> as danielle helps taylor through rehab --

    >> taylor morris and danielle kelly are now with us exclusively. good to see you both. how you doing?

    >> good.

    >> you made the trip up from walter read over the weekend. how you doing?

    >> it was awesome, great time, great weather, couldn't ask for more.

    >> about two weeks ago someone sent me a link for something on the internet and said you've got to watch this. i went online, home alone at the time because it just kind of -- it took my breath away, and it was these 22 images of your love story . you didn't put it online in that form. how did this happen?

    >> right. it was a guy down in texas, and i guess he had been reading the site, keeping up on the web page .

    >> the web page to keep your family and friends posted on your recovery.

    >> when everything happened we started a web page so we wouldn't have to text and e-mail and call, you know, the grandparents, aunts and uncles, all the friends and family, just to keep them informed. it was like a day-to-day updated thing, sometimes twice a day, and so we started that, and we had all of our pictures, all of our videos, and so i guess he -- he followed the story, and he took some of those pictures, and he put them together.

    >> no relationship can be captured in 22 photos, but something about these 22 photos and the progression of them, danielle . at some point you almost feel like you want to turn away, and then at other points you know you can't turn away. what was your reaction when you saw them?

    >> well, actually we were out grocery shopping and got a few texts from a few different people and they have said, you know, you're on this website, go check it out and we're like okay, we'll check it out when we got home.

    >> hadn't heard of the website.

    >> we hadn't heard and kept grocery shopping and another friend would say it's up to "x" amount of views and now it's up to this. i don't know, we went home and we, i guess, surprised that so many people thought it was that -- i don't know.

    >> it's deeply personal. these images from the very first images of this young love to what you went through in afghanistan and recovery to now is very personal. any regrets that it's out there?

    >> no, not at all. i wouldn't say that it's too personal to share. if anything, it's been great that we never wanted to -- to, you know, do all the interviews and, you know, all the cameras and everything like that, but we just started getting so many letters from different people that works you know, mail us letters in the mail, write us e-mails and tell us how much they were inspired and just like them telling, you know, what it has done for them personally has made us, you know, kind of want to share the story.

    >> it was anyone from there was a 7-year-old kid who got a traumatic brain injury who thinks that taylor is superman and wants too-to-continue in his facility, to people in the workout facility with taylor and people who have given up on love and said they didn't know they had a bad relationship and completely gave up ton.

    >> a couple of the images that jumped out to me, piggyback getting a lot of attention. there's one where you're giving taylor a piggyback ride down some steps from an airplane and another -- i think there's another piggyback that's actually one of your favorites, is that correct?

    >> it was us going up the stairs, and a lot of people said it was their favorite. i guess i -- i think my favorite is the one on the beach actually, of taylor and i, both look at water. that's about five blocks from our place in virginia beach , so it was nice

    >> i like the one when you're at a friend's wedding and you shared a dance. when i watched the progression of these photos, that's the one where i looked and said this is a future here, this is a bright future . tell me about that moment.

    >> it was fun, i mean, it was a wedding with all of our friends and kind of like one of the first of our high school friends getting married, so everybody was back in town, and just rocking out on the dance floors, you know.

    >> i -- i see in these photos incredible strength on your part, but i also see incredible strength on your part.

    >> absolutely.

    >> what have you learned about her?

    >> what have i learned about her?

    >> definitely we were close before, but, i mean, we pretty much share everything in the sense that, you know --

    >> any form of privacy, anything.

    >> yeah.

    >> i don't know. i think that both of us, what we like about this whole situation is that we both haven't changed. we're both like who we are.

    >> i know. she's a wonderful caretaker. she always did home health care and she was -- you know, worked at the nursing home and stuff and she's absolutely totally comfortable in that setting, you know, i mean, and willing to give me a piggyback ride up the stairs when i need it.

    >> and love for all the right reasons, that's great. high school sweet hearts . these photos, as i said, stopped me in my tracks.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/24/2012 11:50:17 AM ET 2012-09-24T15:50:17

TODAY
Taylor and Danielle told TODAY they're happy to share their personal photos.

While recovering from a bomb blast in Afghanistan, Taylor Morris decided to document his journey in photos for friends and family.

What resulted — 22 pictures depicting an incredibly moving love story — has gone viral online.

TODAY
This photo of Taylor and Danielle getting off a plane is a fan favorite.

The photographs, taken by Tim Dodd, a good friend of the couple, show Morris, 23, and his high school sweetheart Danielle Kelly, also 23, adjusting to life now that Morris has lost all four limbs after stepping on an improvised explosive device, or IED, in Afghanistan in May.

Kelly has stayed with him every step of the way.

Video: Injured vet, girlfriend speak out on love story photos (on this page)

“I wouldn’t say it’s too personal to share,’’ Morris told Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday of the photos. “We never wanted to do all the interviews and all the cameras and everything like that, but we just started getting so many letters from different people…that would tell us how much they were inspired. Them telling what it has done for them personally has made us kind of want to share the story.’’

TODAY
Taylor, here before the accident, lost all four limbs in an IED explosion.

A Texas man following Morris’s progress online compiled 22 photos that have since gone viral. The photos depict the couple before and after the life-changing explosion, showing Kelly helping Morris through his rehabilitation and giving him piggy-back rides.

“We were close before, but we pretty much share everything (now),’’ Morris said.

“I think that both of us, what we like about this whole situation is that we both haven’t changed,’’ Kelly said. “We’re both who we are.’’

TODAY
The couple were high school sweethearts.
Video: Ejected through windshield, he survives unscathed

The couple from Cedar Falls, Iowa, started dating in high school before Morris joined the Navy in 2008 and found his passion in the explosive ordnance disposal unit. On May 3, he was badly injured by an IED but remained conscious enough to have someone contact Kelly.

“I was actually on the way to work with my friend, and I think I just dropped the phone and screamed and couldn’t hear anything else,’’ Kelly told NBC News.

Morris was transported to Germany and then to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where he is still receiving care. Kelly was by his side only three days after the blast to help him begin his recovery.

TODAY
Taylor and Danielle, at a recent friends' wedding.

“She’s a wonderful caretaker,’’ Morris said. “She’s absolutely and totally comfortable in that setting and down to give me a piggy ride up the stairs when I need it.’’

A picture of Kelly giving Morris a lift on the beach near their home in Virginia Beach, Va., is Kelly’s favorite and one of the most touching in the series. She can still remember where they were when the photos went viral.

“We were out grocery shopping, and we got a few texts from a few different people and they were like, ‘You’re on this website, go check it out,’’’ Kelly said. “We hadn’t heard of it at all, and we just kept grocery shopping, and then friends would say, ‘It has X amount of views and now it’s up to this.’’’

The couple recently shared a dance with some of those friends at a wedding.

“It was fun,’’ Morris said. “It was a wedding with all of our friends, kind of like one of the first of our high school friends getting married so everybody was back in town and just rocking out on the dance floor.’’

The most gratifying part for the couple is hearing how their love has inspired others.

“There was a 7-year-old kid who got a traumatic brain injury who thinks that Taylor is Superman and wants to keep going with his recovery, too, to people in the workout facility who work with Taylor to people who have given up on love,’’ Kelly said.

To learn more about Taylor Morris and a trust that has been set up for him, visit TaylorMorris.org.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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