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.
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.’’
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.’’
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.
“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.
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