Raised in a military family rooted in Marine Corps traditions, Lauren knew military service was her future. As a cadet at the legendary Corps of Cadets, at Texas A&M, she honed her talent for military rigors and commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 2001. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11 she and her fellow committed officers knew war was in their future, but they didn’t know when or for how long. As a logistical officer she brought supplies to the fight. In Al-Taqaddum Air Base in 2003, the USMC setup shop and acted as the distribution center for military supply in Iraq. “They would check in with me and then I would send it out,” she said. The base was centered between Ramadi and Fallujah, two of the most contentious cities with bloody, hard-fought battles for the Corps. Lauren would watch from the bunkers overlooking Fallujah in the distance, and watch as the battle raged. “We would wonder if they had everything they needed,” she added. “But they were short on ammo and water. And we couldn’t reach them.”

In Part 2, Lauren returns to Iraq and finds a renewed purpose on the home front after her military service.

During her second tour to Iraq, Lauren learned a lot. Overseeing her company’s wellfare, and specifically, mental health challenged her at 24 years old. “That stuck out to me, because at that age you really are still just a child yourself” When she returned home she felt her mentality was 30 years ahead of her peers. That and a new marriage made it difficult to assimilate into civilian life. But she was left with a sense of survivors guilt after two tours into combat and seeing her comrades suffer. Her own mental journey began. Today, she oversees operations at the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch and facilitates the natural healing of local veterans through agritherapy. Relearning to appreciate “awe” is key, she says. And the ranch allows a variety of ways to heal since mental health doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. “I didn’t know how to fundraise or run a non-profit, but I understood the mission,” she says. The mental battle in theveterans is very similar to watching the battle of Fallujah from her Iraqi base, except now, those battles reside in the minds of her fellow veterans.