To Love, To Speak

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Healing, Syllable by Syllable

Podcast of Blog Post:


Today’s story is an extraordinary one, even by the standards of those who have suffered trauma during their military service. From Devon, in the southwest of England, comes a story of a love that not only overcame trauma, but literally made words appear when there had been none. The article, from the Western Morning News, is entitled, “Devon Former Serviceman Overcomes PTSD to Propose to Sweetheart.”

Matthew Rawlins was only a twenty-four-year-old seaman in the British Royal Navy in 2002 when, during training exercises in the Baltic Sea, he observed the drowning deaths of two fellow seamen. For two hours he and fellow seamen tried to save their comrades, but to no avail.

Soon afterwards, Mr. Rawlins began experiencing increasing signs of PTSD, until finally, by 2005, he was not only no longer able to live on his own, but also could not even speak on his own, relying on hand gestures alone to make known his needs. He lived in a log cabin behind his parents’ home and merely existed.

Then, in 2010, around a campfire at a scouting camp, he met Amy (AJ) Fletcher, herself a veteran of the British Royal Air Force, and that ultimate connection, love, led him to seek again the life he had been watching pass by. With the eventual help of the British veterans’ charity, Help for Heroes, he and AJ have begun to make a life together, in fluent English, in love.

The story itself is dramatic enough, so I wish to say only this: even in far less dramatic situations, the real hope for recovery from trauma often comes from the careful, patient interactions among combat veterans, their loved ones, and those who have the privilege of serving them. Treatments, both psychological and pharmacological, often play a major role in those interactions.

Yet, as always, ultimately it is the connections that we make in our lives, connections with people who are willing to give us the time we need: those connections ultimately heal us.

And if Matthew and AJ’s story reminds each of us of one thing, it is this: connections can take a while to find, a while to cultivate, and then a while to solidify. Matthew suffered eight years before he met AJ.  They’ve been working slowly together over the past five years to nurture their connection. But thankfully, those eight years before he met AJ had not erased Matthew’s memories of caring, caring that his parents had shown him, caring that his friends had shown him.

And now new memories of caring can be created, ones that will continue to be lived between the two of them, both in words and beyond them.

Congratulations to both of them. May many words and worlds of joy lie ahead.

Until tomorrow, be well,


To learn more about Help for Heroes UK

click here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: