Sirens were sounding and military police were running though the Army base on Nate Lee’s first day of basic training. He thought it must be part of the process that would transform him from a teenager to a soldier, his lifelong dream. He was wrong. The drama was real.
The crisis was 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in America’s history. Only Nate and his fellow soldiers didn’t know it yet.
“We eventually learned what happened, but we didn’t get to see photos or videos for weeks. It didn’t sink in until then,” he says.
Nate was in the Army until his discharge in 2012. He was well on his way to making a career of it when he was injured in an aircraft hangar in Iraq during the last of his four tours of duty. It was then that he looked into opportunities outside of the military.
He’s always willing to go the extra mile and make sure that the job gets done and gets done correctlyLukas Marty
Hormel Foods was a natural choice for Nate, a native of the company’s home base of Austin, Minn. His father, a fellow veteran, worked for Hormel Foods as well. So, when he left the Army, Nate began a new chapter, quickly earning his stripes in civilian life as a member of the Austin Plant’s production team.
“He’s always willing to go the extra mile and make sure that the job gets done and gets done correctly,” says Lukas Marty, the supervisor who nominated Nate for the Pride of the Jersey award. “He is the one person I can go to with an extra task and he’ll get it done for me every time.”
Nate’s can-do attitude extends to his personal life, too. In addition to volunteering at the local VFW post, he enjoys biking, fishing and kayaking. He’s also working on a business degree that he hopes to finish soon at the University of Minnesota. With the time that’s left, Nate repairs computers, flexing his technological muscle. Case in point: He developed a functional website when he was 12. It received 2,000 to 3,000 hits a day.
Nate credits the military with giving him a strong work ethic and a penchant for efficiency, and Hormel Foods for helping him make a smooth transition from the Army. Though it wasn’t difficult for him, he understands why it could have been. Helping other veterans feel at home and relevant as civilians is one of the chief reasons Nate is active with the VFW and serves on the Austin Plant’s HMVET (Hormel Military Veteran Engagement Team) employee resource group. He’s been involved in the latter since it was instituted last year.
“It’s making a difference,” he says.
Or better put, perhaps he is.
Lukas agrees. “Nate is most definitely the kind of person who drives the culture here in the plant.”