To Love, To Speak

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Healing, Syllable by Syllable

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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.

Surf’s Up!

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Life’s Up!

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From the UK today, down on the coasts of Cornwall, comes an interesting article that puts a Celtic twist to the old Snoopy/Bart Simpson exclamation, “cowabunga!”: “Surfing Survivors: Charity Making Waves in Battle to Help Ex-Soldiers Beat the Blues.”

What a great way to do what needs to be done, eh?

From what I understand, folks down in Cornwall are pretty proud of their heritage, their language, and their land. And with beaches and waves like the ones the article shows, who wouldn’t be?

The ocean hits something very core in many of us, especially those who have lived their lives on islands such as the UK. In one way, the water always threatens to engulf us, draw us down, only to spit back what’s left of us into an uncaring world.

In other ways, though, it has a power that can lift us if we work with it, if we understand its backs and forths, if we give way to it when we should, if we take it on when it’s willing to give us a fighting chance.

Now if that doesn’t sound like a pretty good metaphor not only for the trauma of War, but also for how to take Life on afterwards, move forward, and use what it takes to do what needs to be done, I ask you: where are you going to find a better one?

But even if you do…

Down in coastal Cornwall, surf’s up. And with all those consonants in those Celtic languages, there’s got to be a good way to translate “cowabunga” into a Cornish tongue-twister that is more than adequate to bring any combat veteran back to life, one wave at time.

Until tomorrow, be well,


To learn more about Surf Action in the UK

click here.

All the Buzz

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

The Healing Life of Bees

Well, now this is something: from Wales in the UK, check out “Military Veterans in Wales Turn to Beekeeping to Tackle War Traumas.”  (Click the “Skip the Survey” if you get the pop-up.)

What a great idea.

Many times I’ve urged service members to connect to their dogs, their cats, even a bird or two.

Now a sweeter connection in addition, perhaps.

Self-calm through connection. You still have what it takes to find the connections in the world that will bring you some peace, even if only for precious moments. Moments can turn into minutes, into hours, into lives.

It’s your mission: self-calm through connection. Then, and only then, will you be able to engage with survival sufficiently to energize life fully—a life that, I might add, has already found energy through the connections you have made.

It can be as sweet as honey.  Literally.

Until tomorrow, be well,


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