"Kissing the War Goodbye" Photo by Victor Jorgensen, US Navy Photo Journalist | Public Domain
Story by Liesel Schmidt
Recreation Photography by Magdalena Papaiouannou
"The Kiss Project" was created by VIP Alexandria Magazine in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the End of WWII. The iconic "Kissing the War Goodbye" photo by Victor Jorgensen, US Navy Photo Journalist | Public Domain, was taken in Times Square on August 15, 1945. The recreations of this image were taken in Old Town, Alexandria, VA in May 2020 using real women who are currently serving on two fronts; as Military Spouses and as Nurses fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the story of Gretchen Steketee, RN, BSN.
Like many little girls all over the world, Gretchen Steketee pretended to be a nurse when she was young. Equipped with her very own play medical kit, her juvenile fascination took root and later grew into a serious desire to help people, driving her to pursue a nursing career.
That clear direction was one that served her well. By the time she’d graduated from high school, Gretchen had been accepted to Samford University nursing school. During her freshman year at college, fate stepped in and brought her the love of her life. After three years of dating, Gretchen was married to a military man and was looking at a life filled with multiple changes of station, temporary duty assignments (TDYs), and deployments. The challenges were ones she embraced. As she settled into a career as an ER nurse, she found that the portability of her field worked well with the constant changes of life as a military spouse. Seven moves later and now on her family's third tour in the National Capital Region, Gretchen Steketee, RN, BSN, works as a staff nurse at Inova Fairfax Hospital Emergency Department, the only Level 1 trauma center in northern Virginia.
“During this crisis, we have worked together to care for our patients to the best of our ability. Our facility has had phenomenal leadership and has truly been concerned about their employees, providing for all our physical and mental health needs without hesitation as well as putting policy in place to protect staff.”
As frenetic and challenging as her life as an ER nurse may be, Gretchen feels a great sense of purpose in her work. That sense of purpose is felt even deeper for her now that she’s the mother of three young children—one of whom battles a congenital heart defect. The diagnosis has been one that has shaped the family of five in remarkable ways, bringing unexpected blessings in the midst of struggle. As a front-line worker during the current COVID-19 crisis, Gretchen recognized the dangers that could come for her little “heart warrior” at home. “I was terrified that I’d bring it home to her because she is so at risk,” she says. “The unknown was torturous and exhausting.” Even so, she and her family soldier on, living their lives to the fullest as they wait out the pandemic.