An Interview with a Decorated War Hero turned “Laundroteur”
Bill Pederson is trying to live a normal and independent life after returning wounded – both physically and psychologically – from tours of 8 different countries.
Bill Pederson, a 50 year old Fort Lauderdale, Florida native and visually impaired veteran, enlisted in the US Air Force in October, 1988 at the age of 20. Since that time, he has been deployed to 8 different countries, serving as a Flight Medic on multiple Air frames.
After facing numerous injuries and setbacks, he returned home in January 2009. He is still struggling with how drastically he has changed since his first deployment in Oman. Pederson understands that like the thousands of injured soldiers returning home, readjusting to a daily life is an ongoing challenge, especially after many deployments.
Moreover, with employment being another issue for veterans, things become even more difficult. But, Pederson has stepped up to this challenge and established a laundromat of his own in an effort to care for his family. Pederson recently sat down to talk about his time during deployments and adjustment to his new life.
Did You Ever Imagine You Would Go To Afghanistan or Iraq?
BP: No one ever expects to go to war. Desert Storm was my first deployment. However, when September 11th happened, things took a turn for the worse. I was in Orlando, FL looking at flight schools when it all happened. Like most people, I was confused about the events taking place in New York. Then, we were told something about planes hitting the Twin Towers. Shortly after, I received a phone call regarding possible activation and deployment.
How Did You React When You Found Out You Were Being Deployed?
BP: No one ever believes they will die, but the thought always sits in the back of your mind. My unit didn’t deploy right away. I actually volunteered for my first deployment, which was to Oman. While there, we flew combat missions into Afghanistan. It was not until my third deployment that I was presidentially activated and deployed.
What Branch Of The Military Did You Serve And What Was Your Job?
BP: I served the US Air Force as a Flight Medic. My main job was to care for and fly wounded soldiers to a higher care facility. Keeping them alive during the flight was our first priority. I had the honor of caring for the real heroes of this nation.
How Did You Feel About Going Overseas For The First Time In Combat?
BP: I never wanted to go to war, who does?! Our nation was and still is in war, I just wanted to be there to do my share and be part of something greater than myself. At the time, I was living in Las Vegas, NV. Everyone was afraid, but I had a lot of support from my fellow airmen and soldiers. The camaraderie you build in a war time situation is unlike anything else. Your life depends on those around you.
How Many Tours and Where To?
BP: I was a part of 8 tours in total, including Uzbekistan, Germany, Pakistan, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait and Afghanistan. We were always on the move. Although we would be based at one location, we often flew missions in and out of many locations. One mission could take you to multiple countries.
When And How Did You Get Injured?
BP: I think it was 2005 when our base came under a mortar attack in Balad, Iraq. The mortar landed right behind me as we were preparing for a mission. The blast wave hit me so hard it knocked me to the ground that caused a loss of vision, which I only came to notice a couple of days later. At the time of the blast, I didn’t feel as if I was injured.
What Have You Done Since Your Military Retirement?
BP: Technically, I am not retired as of yet. I have, however, operated 2 laundromats in the meantime.
Why Did You Get Into The Self-Serve Coin Laundry Industry?
BP: When I was told that the injury ended my military career, I did some soul searching. I didn’t want to go back to working in EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and had previously owned a full-service vending company by the name of “Fox Vending”. Owning and operating a business is something I really enjoyed, so after looking into several businesses over a 2-year period, I decided the self-serve coin laundry industry was for me.
How Did You Choose Your Location?
BP: The location was in close proximity to my original laundromat which was closed some time ago. I really wanted to opt for a location as close as possible to my original laundromat, because I had a good customer base in that area. The little competition gave my business a good boost too.
Who Did You Choose To Help Build Your Store?
BP: I chose Laundry Owners Warehouse because they were ready to support my project even if I didn’t choose Dexter equipment, who is the manufacturer they represent. I believe their willingness to help someone succeed without putting any pressure on them says a lot about the people of Laundry Owners Warehouse. Integrity and honesty, these are the two attributes that I appreciate and respect.
Why Did You Choose Dexter Equipment?
BP: Since my partner, Sergio Pretini, is currently living in Argentina and isn’t always in Florida, I thought it was important to have a system in place where he would be able to see what was going on at any given time. With DexterLive, this is possible and the equipment itself has some great features. The build of the machine is sturdy and heavy-duty, which I really like.
Where Do You See Yourself In The Next 5 Years?
BP: I believe that in the next 5 years, my partners and I will have played a crucial role in expanding the coin laundry industry. I noticed just how bad the industry’s reputation was before I purchased my first Laundromat. As of now, I can’t really say how many laundromats we will eventually own, but it is my goal to increase the number of laundromats I own one at a time, so that I can change the look of the coin-laundry industry one laundry at a time.