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 dock 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 with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles. The crowd screamed and waved flags around them.
Both women, ages 22 and 23 respectively, are fire controlmen in the Navy. They met at training school and have been dating for two years.
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 of tickets. The Navy said the money would be used to host a Christmas party for the children of sailors.
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.
Snell is based on the USS Bainbridge, the guided missile destroyer that helped rescue cargo captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009.