U.S. Air Force; Technical Sergeant E6
Lions Gift of Sight
Lori Pederson describes herself as “a little renegade” when she was young. Her parents wanted her to focus on computers as a career, but she just wasn’t interested. After a year of college courses, a friend bet her $10 that she wouldn’t enlist in the military – she took the bet and called the Air Force recruiter. She reports that she has, “never seen the $10, but gained a lifetime of experience.”
Enlisting at age 18, a year after high school, she says she gave her mom a “heart attack” telling her the news, but describes her military service as, “The most blissful 8 years of growing up.”
After six weeks of Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, she was assigned the job of “CATM” a “red hat” Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Instructor, staying at Lackland. Lori says with a laugh, “the best teach the rest,” as her assignment involved specialty training in five different guns/firearms. She trained for five weeks on the different firearms, and then had four weeks of instructor school. She helped train new recruits out on the firing range and did their bi-annual sign offs. If she didn’t take the role as a CATM, her other option was essentially a hotel lobby clerk for base visitors. That sounded boring to her, so she opted for the other role.
Eventually Lori transferred to the 934th Airlift in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. During her 8 years of service she traveled to England, Arkansas, Washington, and Las Vegas. During one of her Las Vegas tips at Nellis Air Force Base for training, the base was placed at DEFCON 2 because the Gulf War had just started.
Following the Air Force, Lori went to school to be a surgical technologist. She wanted to help patients in need, just as she had helped her country. She wasn’t a “desk person” and met someone who did tissue recovery, so she transitioned to that. After five years in organ donation, she went to eye donation, and has been at Lions Gift of Sight eye bank for 17 years.
Lori says that military service provided her with “strong foundational ideas” and taught her to “be counted on during times of need.” She credits the military with teaching “executional excellence” and says, “It is just as much of an honor and privilege to serve the eye bank as it is to serve my country.”
At one point, Lori had an opportunity to apply for the Secret Service. She turned it down, and knows that if she hadn’t, she would have never become an eye banker.
Describing her work at the eye bank, Lori says, “Everyday is a new day, and every donor is different. You honor donors and recipients just as you honor the flag. She loves when recipients visit the eye bank, and she gets to hear the stories of how Lions Gift of Sight has transformed their lives. She says, “In the Air Force, our motto is, ‘Aim High’ – and I do the same at the eye bank.”
When Lori first started at the eye bank, she said her boss could tell from her work ethic that she had been in in the military. She recommends military service “with no hesitation.” She says it helped her “establish boundaries, create a foundation of respect and honor – which is a good core to have. You can apply it to your life wherever you go. It’s an amazing experience.”