Argosy University held a special graduation ceremony for nearly 60 veterans and service members aboard the USS Midway Museum Friday.
Lorren Cahill was among them. "It was a journey," she said as she wiped tears away. "A very hard journey." While the graduation song often takes people back to their high school or college graduation, music often takes Cahill back to middle school.
"I played the clarinet," she explained.
It was during her senior year when the 9/11 terror attacks unfolded. "It gave me that feel like I want to do something," she said.
She joined the Navy when she was only 17 years old.
"I was doing all the dirty work on the ship… tearing up the non-skid, painting the ship," she explained.
Years later, she got out and now works as a Navy contractor.
"I had no money," Cahill said. "I'm like, okay well whatever you just have to. You have to make it work."
Last year, it was out of her hands when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She cried her eyes out for 20 minutes in the bathroom, then put up a strong front for her kids. She says they gave her strength.
"They're my world," she said. "They're my rock."
As a mother of three with a full-time job, she has a lot on her plate. Argosy University's flexible hours allowed her to earn her masters degree.
"Oh, and I'm a therapist too," Cahill said. It is her way of serving others, because she does not want anyone to suffer alone.
"I was sexually molested by my band teacher," she explained. She said it started in fifth grade, and it went on for three years. "Kind of even talking about it is still a little hard," she said.
Hearing music also opens those wounds from middle school. "I never thought I'd be here," She said with her graduation cap in hand. "I'm trying not to cry," she added.
She was crying tears of empowerment because she is no longer that scared little girl.
"I never thought I'd make it," she added. "Attempting suicide a couple times. It's just; here I am. I made it."
She said she has never been more proud to be in her own skin.