A Love Story of Two Warriors, Trauma, and Triumph

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

3 min read

Ashley and Daniel share more than just a marital bond — they understand the challenges and trauma that can come after service.

Both Veterans served in the Air Force.

Ashley spent three years working with unmanned aircrafts, contributing over 100,000 hours (about 11 and a half years) of flight time on war missions.

Daniel’s 25-year career included roles ranging from heavy equipment mechanic to serving on the Air Force parachute team, where he completed around 4,000 jumps.

While they never served together, the couple’s paths crossed as Ashley was exiting the service. They connected over a love of playing softball, and in 2018, they had their first date, coinciding with Daniel’s retirement.

Now married, Ashley and Daniel understand each other’s struggles intimately. Ashley recognized the need to address her mental health when nightmares and irritability began to overwhelm her. Daniel, however, had buried his trauma, conforming to the stereotype that seeking help was frowned upon in the military culture.

The stigma around seeking help, Daniel explained, stemmed from the pressure to always appear “deployment ready.” It wasn’t until Ashley encouraged him to confront his issues that he began to acknowledge them.

Concerned about becoming overly reliant on medication, Ashley sought alternatives. Daniel, the family’s researcher, discovered K9s For Warriors. After a lengthy approval process, Ashley was paired with Hope, a floppy-eared black lab, in 2020. “She’s probably saved my marriage because even my husband is like, I have my happy wife back,” said Ashley.

Next, Daniel applied.

Hope profoundly impacted Ashley’s life, restoring her confidence and optimism. Witnessing this transformation, Daniel applied for a Service Dog, eventually being paired with Jude, a smiling English Cream Golden Retriever. “Jude has brought out some strong emotions that I haven’t felt in years. I am typically very cold and not good at showing affection. I do not feel embarrassed giving him love and could care less what others think of me. I know I can transfer this affection to my relationship and find more ways to show Ashley how much I care for her,” said Daniel.

We recently caught up with them just in time for Valentine's Day and asked how they celebrate each year.

“We sneak gifts out to surprise each other in the morning before work starts,” she said. “Usually, one of us sends each other something fun to work like cookies or lunch, then dinner at home with the dogs for a quiet night in.”

But the everyday check-ins of support throughout the day continue to build their ever-strengthening bond, “…we leave love notes in lunch pails and making sure we have date night every week,” she said.

They’ve seen a noticeable difference since being paired with Hope and Jude, with their communication improving immensely — they feel like a solid team. “Now we feel that we’ve become better advocates for their needs and emotions for not only each other but for others, too,” she said. From two Warriors in love to other couples dealing with PTSD, their advice is simple. 

"Remind them they are loved, they are seen, and they are heard. ​ You are not alone."

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