National Veterans and Military Families Month: 30 Days of the Same Mystery Meal

Natalie Lawrence

November 19, 2019 - Diversity & Inclusion DC, DE, MD, VA Florida Maine New England New Jersey, New York and PA North and South Carolina

TD's Natalie Lawrence learned more than survival in the U.S. Army

TD's Natalie A. Lawrence knows she can survive under any conditions and face stresses that come her way in everyday life. That skill came primarily from one source – her 17 years of service in the U.S. Army.

Throughout her years of service, there were daily survival tests. Perhaps the most difficult one was during her 30-day period in Afghanistan, when the thermometer regularly exceeded 100 degrees.

"In the heat of battle, we had the same meal each day- mystery meat and potatoes," she said. "With no running water, the only beverages we had were Gatorade and juice. We could only shower every three days. We had no beds, only sleeping bags, we were down in the trenches. Without laundry services we had to wash clothes out of a bucket."

It was those experiences that allowed her to recognize the importance of teamwork throughout her military career. Natalie served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Croatia, Bosnia, Kuwait, Germany, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Hungary and Sarajevo. Perhaps the most important lesson she carries to this day is that "every day there is opportunity to learn."

"The military exposes you to situations where you have to rely on your team, " she said. "You are limited to who you interact with, so you have to trust with the person to the left and right of you."

As a Logistics Officer and senior leader, she had an important mission to find ways to motivate her team in the face of incredibly debilitating conditions.

"I was a jack of all trades," she said. "I learned about the importance of quality leadership team cohesion and understanding the dynamics of a situation and assessing the impact decisions had downstream. "

One of the most memorable stories Natalie told about team motivation involved a seemingly simple gesture of providing pizza to her troops in Afghanistan.

"We were just living day to day, so I was trying to find a way to motivate, we walked over to the British compound which was about a five mile walk in a sandstorm," she explained. "But having that pizza changed the dynamics. It took our minds off the situations. Moral boosters were so important. We worked 18-20 hours every day."

Natalie-Lawrence.png#asset:3110Natalie Lawrence

Adjustment to civilian life

Natalie carries these lessons from war and many others about life in the military with her. She brought this perspective and insights to TD three years ago when she joined the Bank as a Project Analyst in Lexington, South Carolina. Natalie came to TD a year following her retirement from the military. She admits the transition was an adjustment.

"It was the fear of the unknown; corporate America has a different way of doing things," she explained. "It was not a struggle, I was just trying to adjust, which was challenging at times."

Natalie has continued her strong advocacy for veterans at TD. She is the co-lead for the Veterans Business Resource Group (BRG) in Metro Carolinas and involved with the Veterans Pilot Program at the Bank.

Her work with the veteran groups at the Bank and in her community includes focusing on how to support veterans who are in transition and increase the understanding of what veterans bring to a workplace. She notes that most veterans have experienced more in their years of service than the vast majority of civilians. Veterans are accustomed to high stress levels and rely on teamwork to succeed.

"Hiring managers should understand the transferable skills that vets offer," she said. "A veteran is an individual who will not only satisfy the pillar of Diversity & Inclusion; they will be a team player with capacity of understanding with very little guidance. Vets are an asset to any team."


Stay up to date with email alerts