Lori D. Renwick Zaimovic is a former helicopter pilot, a humanitarian specialist, and an active duty Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves who currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany. She is newly married to a Bosnian National, and their first child is due within the month (Congratulations, Lori!). Lori is also working on the film “TROOPER,” which is in the final stages of distribution. This personal project is a story about a returning Veteran from the wars who is faced with everyday situations, decisions and delusions of life after war. TROOPER started from a poetry reading and has led to her Executive Producing the film. According to Lori, “life has brought me a lot of opportunities through choices that I have made and I consider myself “lucky.”
Q: I am totally impressed that you flew Blackhawks! Was it always a dream of yours to fly? How did you come to be a pilot?
LR: I have to correct your question. I didn’t fly Blackhawks; it’s much cooler than that! I flew Apaches, AH-64A models. This is the Army’s gun ship. However, of the four conventional airframes, they all have their mission and importance in the big scheme of things.
My story isn’t as magical as those whose life led them down a path of their dreams coming true. Mine was a bit more about determination and a moderate amount of work. I never dreamt of being a pilot or of being in the military. From an early age I wanted to be a pediatric doctor. When I entered college as a pre-med student, I quickly realized that I wasn’t meant for the lab work required of a Chemistry Pre-Med student and that I didn’t have the drive to do well enough to succeed. I was working to pay for food and housing and an occasional dinner out, like normal college students. After a full summer of course work, I thought that it would be fun to take a R.O.T.C. course that also gave me credit towards my “gym” requirement. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to take the time out of my normal course work. I found that out of all of my classes that I excelled in the R.O.T.C. environment, established many friendships that were lacking due to no free time, and had fun rope bridging, rappelling, etc.
After realizing that I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor, I had a small crisis, since this was the only thing I had ever dreamt of doing. I took half the fall semester and the spring semester off of my sophomore year to try to decide what I would do. I knew I would return to college, but I didn’t know what my goal was and therefore didn’t see the point in spending money on school just to be there. I took the time to do some soul searching and make decisions. I got several misc. jobs to pay the bills and came up with the solution of joining the Army. Once that decision was made, I thought…the only thing I would want to do in the military is fly. So I set my sights on that goal.
Along the way, I was told that I couldn’t fly because I wore glasses. I read regulation after regulation and determined that this wasn’t the case. A future commissioned officer in the Army only needed to have 20/50 vision, a rule that I had to use in the future when a military doctor during my “first” official flight physical tried to disqualify me, remind him of. Then I was told that I couldn’t fly Apaches by an NCO (non-commissioned officer) in my R.O.T.C. chain of command because I was a woman. Again I researched and found out that that rule had been out the window in 1995 (I would be graduating in 1997).
I graduated with honors from college, and was in the top 2 of my R.O.T.C. class. Both of these as well as a good showing at the summer course required for all R.O.T.C. cadets, I was awarded my first choice of branch, Aviation. I would have to wait until I was in Flight school to learn that I also was awarded Apaches.
Q: Congratulations on your first child! What is the biggest lesson that you want your child to learn?
LR: Benjamin is due on the 21st of May, so that puts me out only a couple more weeks! Yikes! Trying to answer this question actually makes me a little weepy. Silly hormones – or that fact that it’s such an important question, who knows which… There are so many things that I think are important to teach him and yet I have some difficulty pointing to how I really feel. I want him to respect life and treat it as the gift that it is. I want him to know that all people are equal in their own way and that you have to accept people for who they choose to be an not who you think or want them to be. I want him to be responsible for his own actions and contribute to society in a positive way. I want him to love openly and freely and to find a partner that is his equal in every way and that will challenge his thinking and ideas. I will want him to embrace this challenge.
Q: Businesses, especially international ones are really interesting to me. You bought a business in Sarajevo and Croatia? What are you working on?
The international business that I first purchased is an individual franchise of No+Vello in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. No+Vello is a Spanish franchise opportunity that came across my path during a coffee break with one of my girlfriends. She and I were discussing business ideas and opportunities when I shared a desire to open a spa style center, only my idea was and is still so grandiose that its not a practical start up… She told me about an opportunity her sister had considered and talked about the city of Tuzla as one of the biggest cities still in BIH that was available. The franchise was a reasonably priced start-up and one that I could do with my savings as well as use as a stepping-stone to get to that grandiose plan from earlier…
I opened No+Vello in Tuzla with the help of my future husband Ismar. It is incredibly challenging to run a business in a country where I don’t fully speak the language or understand the business rules and law. I had to do a lot of research to ensure that we aren’t taken advantage of or lose an advantage simply by not knowing that it existed. Once the single franchise was running well and returning a profit, I started to think about ways to improve the business. We discussed options between ourselves about opening a Master Franchise of the same, No+Vello in several different countries. Croatia was where we felt our opportunity of success was the greatest given the cost of doing business. After quite a bit of deliberation and consideration, we decided to take the plunge as a married couple. Luckily, the language of Croatia is very similar to Bosnian and my husband is able to handle the operations of the business and I handle the expansion. I hope that the two business ventures will allow me to bridge the gap between working for someone else and receiving my pension, and/or they will be the stepping-stone to my bigger plan. Until both are fully functioning, that answer remains to be seen.
Q: How do you juggle the demands on your time? What brings you balance?
LR: My biggest demand is yet to come with Benjamin’s pending arrival. I handle the challenges day-to-day and hour-to-hour. I think women are good at multi-tasking. We handle all sorts of situations as they hit us and we are resilient and flexible. I have had to temporarily give up some of the things that I love, like traveling to new countries and taking classes for personal growth, however, I’m growing through personal adventures. And I understand that sometimes there needs to be a temporary suspension of desires to allow for a greater goal. My husband and I agree that we will focus our ambition and knowledge and make sacrifices early, making the businesses successful so that we can enjoy our children when they are at ages of remembrance. It isn’t always easy and I break down from time to time. But I don’t think of that in a bad way…it’s about picking yourself back up, dusting off and being stronger afterwards. It’s a state of mind and every now and then it needs to be rebuilt.
As for balance, sometimes I just take a little me time and recharge with family and a massage. A trip, no matter how long, to the ocean or water body, feeds my soul, maybe it’s my “cancer” horoscope influence, but it has always allowed me to put things in perspective.
Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of? Alternately, what didn’t work out as planned but taught you a huge lesson in life?
LR: I hope that I will be most proud of how I have raised my children. However, this remains to be seen!
For now, I guess I would say that I am proud that I have taken the divergent paths in life that most others wouldn’t choose. No labels define who I am. They simply have added to my life experiences. To really know a person you have to be able to reach their soul for understanding.