As we approach Valentine’s Day, the Semper Fi Fund is delighted to be sharing unique stories of couples whose love for each other serves as an example to us all.

Lauren and Rafael Cervantes were married June 25, 2010 at Waialae Beach on Oahu, Hawaii. It’s easy to imagine the scene: Handsome groom, beautiful bride, swaying palm trees and impossibly blue water. What could be more romantic?


They had met just seven months earlier. Lauren was working at the furniture store on Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Rafael came in one day looking to buy a lock for his barracks room. “We only talked for a bit,” Lauren recalls, “but he managed to get my phone number.”

Less than three months shy of their first wedding anniversary, on April 4, 2011, Marine Sgt. Rafael Cervantes was in Afghanistan on deployment with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines. He was on patrol when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. He sustained multiple injuries to his right leg and ankle as well as his hip, pelvis and spine. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“The Semper Fi Fund helped us from day one,” says Lauren, “from getting me to Balboa hospital [the Navy Medical Center in San Diego] to be with Rafael and helping us obtain a therapy dog. The list goes on and on. I think the thing that impacted me the most, though, was knowing that we are not alone in this journey. I feel that Semper Fi Fund genuinely cares about my husband and my family. I never felt that we were a burden to them, and they always make us feel welcome and are happy to help and talk and just be part of our lives, no matter what.”

The Semper Fi Fund is deeply honored to be serving Rafael, who has served us all, and we’re grateful to him for his service—and to Lauren for her kind words. Clearly, though, the strength of this couple’s relationship has been a huge and positive factor in Rafael’s ongoing recovery.

“I admire my husband’s ability to continue to push himself, no matter what adversity he faces,” Lauren says. “He has a strong ethic, and he tries to inspire others to achieve more than they thought possible.”

“When Rafael got injured, things were definitely difficult for the both of us,” Lauren continued. “I know that he had to adjust to a completely new lifestyle. That was a test of who he identified himself to be. As for me, I think what I learned about myself was that I am a very independent person, but that it was okay to ask for help sometimes.”

Valentine’s Day, of course, is a day about love—and Lauren’s life experiences, and her experiences as the spouse of a wounded service member, have given her a unique perspective on love.

“Love is a powerful thing, but it would be foolish to rely on that only to keep a marriage afloat,” she says. “Talking about difficult subjects, and learning that just because we don’t always agree on something, doesn’t mean it has to turn into an argument. It’s okay to have different opinions on certain things.

“Love to me is different when it’s with a partner,” Lauren continued. “I think love with a significant other is earned rather than blindly loving someone like your child. That love is instant, never falters, and will always be there no matter what. Loving a partner is something that takes time, and is not always easy—but the fact that you want to work on it, and have that desire to love that person at all costs—that’s what makes it love.”

And what does Lauren think about Valentine’s Day the holiday?

“Maybe it’s a little old-fashioned, but I think Valentine’s Day is more of a holiday for the guys to show their love for their significant other,” she says. “I think most women tend to have an easier time sharing their feelings and showing them too, and this is a chance for a guy to go out of his way to make his woman feel extra special. As far as my role is concerned, I like doing things that are more sentimental than extravagant. I would rather give a gift or have time together that is meaningful rather than something that’s expensive and shiny.”