VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A Navy tradition caught up with the repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule on Wednesday when two women sailors became the first to share the coveted “first kiss” on the pier after one of them returned from 80 days at sea.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of Placerville, Calif., descended from the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship and shared a quick kiss in the rain with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles. Gaeta, 23, wore her Navy dress uniform while Snell, 22, wore a black leather jacket, scarf and blue jeans. The crowd screamed and waved flags around them.
“It’s something new, that’s for sure,” Gaeta told reporters after the kiss.
“It’s nice to be able to be myself. It’s been a long time coming.”
Snell smiled as she approached Gaeta, and they briefly embraced as a small contingent of local media, which was unaware about what was going to happen until moments earlier, captured the scene.
“She told me about the first kiss a couple of days ago and I kind of freaked out – in a good way – but of course I’m a little nervous, you know. But I’ve been waiting since she left,” Snell said.
David Bauer, the commanding officer of the USS Oak Hill, said that Gaeta and Snell’s kiss would largely be a nonevent and the crew’s reaction upon learning who was selected to have the first kiss was positive.
The ship returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story following an 80-day deployment to Central America. The crew of more than 300 participated in exercises involving the militaries of Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia and Panama as part of Amphibious-Southern Partnership Station 2012.
Navy officials said it was the first time on record that a same-sex couple was chosen to kiss first upon a ship’s return. Sailors and their loved ones bought $1 raffle tickets for the opportunity. Gaeta said she bought $50 tickets, a figure that she said pales in comparison to amounts that some had bought.
The money was used to host a Christmas party for the children of sailors.