A DECADE AGO, Bob and Peggy Lorinser were living the good life in Marquette. He was a doctor at Marquette General, she was mostly a stay-at-home mom and wife, though she’d worked jobs at Kohl’s and the YMCA.
They loved their life, their children, their town, and their camp out at Bass Lake.
But then fate intervened.
“Our son Peter was at Holy Cross (the college in Massachusetts) and one of his mentors was Henry Thomas who’d been an ambassador in a few countries,” Bob explains. “And one day Peter calls us and asks, ‘What do you think about me joining the Foreign Service?’ And it got us thinking. Maybe we should do it.”
“To be honest,” Peggy adds, “it was really my idea. When Peter called, I said this could be interesting. Our three kids were no longer at home, this would be something new and adventurous, and Bob and I have always been adventurous.”
Not only that but Bob was growing weary of the medical profession at home. Marquette General was undergoing a major change, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be part of it.
He applied for the Foreign Service. An extensive process–personal stuff, medical exams, security clearances and more. He passed. He would become a regional medical officer for American diplomats overseas, while Peggy would take on a variety of jobs–housing coordinator, community liaison officer, mailroom clerk, and consular affairs assistant–while serving alongside her husband.
And then, in 2011, the adventure began. Over the next eight years, it would take them to Pakistan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Iraq, where they’re now posted.
Not exactly bucket list vacations for most of us.
And some posts certainly seemed just a wee bit dangerous–they were joining the Foreign Service just prior to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s headquarters in Pakistan.
Bob says he wasn’t concerned. “At some of the big posts, it’s like a fortress,” he explains. “A thousand guards, machine guns, gates, multiple road blocks. Very secure.”
“When we first got to Pakistan,” Peggy continues, “I’d go for walks around the compound, and there were so many people with guns. I admit, I got nervous. But three months later, I was running around the compound, waving at the guards, and enjoying myself.”
They’d frequently hear shelling in the distance but eventually got used to it.
“In Kabul (Afghanistan), we’d be having dinner,” Bob says, “and we’d hear a blast, and the tables would rattle, but then we’d try to finish our dessert before running inside. We actually felt pretty safe, safer than we’d feel on the streets of Chicago.”
It’s been gratifying work for both of them–serving their country, seeing the world. They estimate that, between their assignments and their R & R vacations, they’ve now visited nearly 100 countries.
“Most of the people we dealt with at our assignments were Muslims,” Bob says. “They’re wonderful people.”
“People have the same values everywhere,” Peggy says. “Number one for everyone is their family.”
They had planned to continue this adventure together for a full ten years but changes have come to Washington DC. The State Department has called for major staff cuts at certain posts, including Baghdad where they’re now stationed. Peggy’s job was eliminated while Bob’s was not.
After considerable discussion, they’ve decided they will return to Marquette in August for their regular home visit, and then Peggy will stay while Bob will return to Baghdad to complete his ten years with the Foreign Service. It makes financial sense–he’d get a full pension at that point.
But now they’re starting to plan for their return to a normal, conventional life. Bob is 63, Peggy is 58.
Still a lot of life ahead of them. Time again for family, for friends, for their camp on Bass Lake, for nighttime campfires, for hikes in the woods.
“We’re just Marquette people,” Bob says. “Midwesterners. We believe in family, in morals. These last several years have just given us a good idea of how lucky we are to live here, in this country, in this town.”