Key West is known as an artistic community, and also one that has long standing ties to the military. The perfect example of this is the sculpture that was created of the famous picture of a soldier and a nurse kissing in Times Square.
Long before it became known as the best place in America to have a margarita and before the cruise ships made it one of their premiere stops, Key West, Florida was a thriving artist's community. Some of the first people to settle back here almost one hundred years ago, when the city was coming back from the precipice of bankruptcy, were painters, writers, musicians, performers and artists of every ilk. It was their influence that helped shape the future of Key West and their influence can still be seen in many parts of this island town.
The only other people that were here when the artists arrived were military people. From the first time that Key West, Florida became part of the United States, it was seen to have a very important place in protecting the country and helping to expand the country's presence in the Caribbean basin. To this day, the military continues to play an important role in the island's day-to-day activities.
One of the famous military images was captured in Times Square on V-E Day. In the middle of a huge celebration signaling the end of hostilities in the European theater of WWII, a soldier and nurse, who didn't know each other, embraced in a kiss that was captured by Life Magazine and quickly became a symbol seen around the world. It also led to the perfect idea to celebrate both the importance of the military and the artistic spirit of Key West, because now a statue of that same couple stands proudly among the public art which Key West is famous for.
Sadly, the two people were never formerly identified and their names have been lost to history, with different individuals claiming to be the ones photographed. One of the potential soldiers just recently passed away, but what's more important than identifying who they are is saluting the service that both of these brave individuals did for this country during the war. That's why after you have visited your favorite Key West restaurants, take time to marvel at this statue and say a word of gratitude.
Robert Willis is a travel and food writer based in Key West.