SAN DIEGO - The replacement "Kiss" statue on the downtown San Diego waterfront was dedicated during a ceremony Saturday.
MORE IMAGES: "Kiss" statue returns to San Diego
The statue captured the moment a sailor grabbed a nurse and kissed her as the United States celebrated Japan's surrender and the end of World War II.
For Navy veteran Vic Miranda, that moment had been nearly four years in the making. He was at Pearl Harbor when World War II started. Even now, it is hard for him to talk about.
"Not too much," he said. "I get too emotional, but I got caught under a flag pole... and we got hit by a kamikaze."
The 25-foot-tall bronze sculpture, by 82-year-old Navy veteran Seward Johnson, arrived from New Jersey on Monday and was permanently installed Wednesday.
It replaces a similar statue that was on loan. The new one is permanent and was paid for by private donations.
Saturday's dedication ceremony at the G Street Mole across from the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum included the unveiling the statue, a presentation of new cherry trees donated by the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego and a renewal of vows by several couples married during World War II, including Miranda and his wife.
The hope is the sacrifice made by the "Greatest Generation" will be remembered by future generations every time they take a photo.
The statue can do more than connect visitors to warriors of the past. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said it can help honor the men and women fighting for us now.
"The kids coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan have many, many issues that we as a nation have to be willing to fulfill the contract we had and this will remind us of that," he said.
A "Salute to Heroes" festival was held at the adjacent Navy Pier beginning at 11 a.m. Among other things, the festival included stations where donations can be made to the San Diego Food Bank and San Diego Humane Society.
The statue replaces "Unconditional Surrender," the 6,000-pound sculpture by J. Seward Johnson that was loaned to San Diego from 2007 to early last year. That statue is owned by the Santa Monica-based nonprofit Sculpture Foundation and was taken from San Diego to New Jersey for restoration.
The original is made of a foam core with a urethane outer layer and is susceptible to weather damage, while the replacement is made of more durable bronze.
Both the original and the replacement evoke the famed 1945 Life magazine photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square in New York when the end of World War II was announced, although Johnson said the work was actually based on a similar but less well known depiction of V-J Day in Times Square taken by Victor Jorgensen.
Edith Shain, a former Los Angeles schoolteacher, claimed to be the woman in the photograph. She attended the unveiling of the original statue in San Diego and appeared at other local events before she died in 2010 at age 91.