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William to read nurse’s poem inspired by Afghanistan veteran

Debbie Lawson has been announced as the winner of a national competition called a Poem to Remember launched by the Duke of Cambridge in February.

The Duke of Cambridge is set to read a poem penned by an A&E nurse who was inspired by the traumatic experiences of an Afghanistan veteran suffering from PTSD.

Debbie Lawson has been announced as the winner of a national competition called a Poem to Remember, garnering 49% of the public vote for her verse, called One For The Team.

Launched in February, the competition marks the creation of the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) and the centenary year of the end of the First World War.

The state-of-the-art multimillion-pound facility will provide neurological and complex trauma care and a full suite of rehabilitative facilities on one site when it opens its doors later this year.

William, who is a patron of the DNRC, based at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough, is set to read the winning entry at a handover event on Thursday.

Ms Lawson, an A&E nurse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury and a volunteer PTSD counsellor, said she is “absolutely delighted” to have been chosen as the winner.

“It is based on a true story that I was told by a boy suffering from PTSD,” the 63-year-old said.

“He was in Afghanistan in a tank that was blown up and his mates were killed. My hope is to explain what people like him are going through.

“If just one person reads my poem and understands from it what these people are going through, then I will be delighted.

“I have listened for years and years to those experiencing stories like this, and also at work face the onslaught of a busy A&E department as well.

“It gives you an awareness of people who are struggling. I wanted to write about that and it is why I am so overwhelmed and honoured to have won.

“To now have someone like Prince William read my poem and help raise awareness of PTSD is magnificent.

“I feel the fact people cared enough to choose my poem gives value back to those who are suffering in some way. I am so grateful.”

Ms Lawson also has her own connections to the military, including an uncle who was killed in the Battle of Britain, and a grandfather who served in both world wars.

Her husband also served in the RAF for 42 years, and her daughter’s fiance has carried out multiple tours in Afghanistan as a special forces operative in the Australian military.

Revealing she has shared the poem with the PTSD sufferer who inspired her entry, Ms Lawson added: “He is very moved by it as he believes it will help always evoke the memories of his comrades.

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A Poem to Remember winner, Debbie Lawson. The Duke of Cambridge will read her winning verse

“Hopefully it will help highlight to the public the awfulness that these people are left with.”

In the aftermath of the incident, the soldier, who has not been named, had to help carry the bodies of his dead friends to base.

Now back in the UK and having left the military, he has struggled to move on and suffers the legacy of regularly believing he sees his dead friends.

The DNRC was an initiative of the late Duke of Westminster, who saw building the facility as the most important task he had ever undertaken, his son-in-law Dan Snow has previously said.

The capital cost of building the £300 million facility is funded entirely by charitable donations and will succeed Headley Court as the country’s leading facility for clinical rehabilitation of UK military personnel.

Inspired by the great war poets of the First World War, the competition set out to find the next generation of poems that reflect on humankind’s ability to triumph over adversity.

More than 5,000 entries were received and then whittled down to 25, with the shortlist of the final five picked by a panel of judges including Snow, Stephen Fry and bestselling novelist Andy McNab.

As well as having her poem installed at the DNRC, Ms Lawson will also receive £2,000.

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