WINTER HAVEN – As a United States Marine Corps recruit going through basic training, Carrie Cahoon learned how to maintain her cool in stressful situations.
It was during the combat pool qualification portion that a sergeant pulled and held her underwater, creating an uncontrollable panic in the 18-year old.
“In the pool, I panicked the first time, jumping in to do the very first maneuver and was just reacting – not thinking – and grabbing at the instructor’s arms around my neck,” she recalls. “So, I didn’t succeed in getting him off me, which would’ve translated into me not surviving if it were a real-life situation.”
Cahoon said that while she was in line waiting for her second and final turn in the pool, she was mentally running through exactly how to be successful — and she nailed it the next time.
“In that exercise, they were trying to impress upon us that a drowning victim can be a danger to the rescuer,” she said. “I learned the physical maneuvers and methods of water rescue, but what I learned that has been beneficial to me continually is how to keep my emotions in check in stressful situations – to keep my cool and use my brain, instead of just reacting.”
Since then, that lesson has served Cahoon well.
After four years in the Marines, she came back home to Polk County and, before finding her career path as a realtor, worked a variety of jobs.
Currently, Cahoon is the owner of Carriestate, a real estate brokerage located on Cypress Gardens Road that opened about 18 months ago.
From stints in a bar, a lumberyard, and a county juvenile detention center, Cahoon’s military background continually helped to remind her that everyone is different.
“(As military members) the exposure and experience with people from all over the world, I think, gives us a little more perspective,” she said. “It makes us more comfortable with diversity.”
The Lake Region High School graduate said that it was around age 12 that she decided to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps by becoming a Marine.
“I thought I had it all figured out at 18,” she laughed.
Cahoon says her goal was to retire from the Marines at age 38, but she quickly learned she didn’t like being told what to do. Back then, she was so focused she was in basic training when her classmates were attending prom and graduation.
And, although her priorities have changed over time, she remains driven and focused on her goals.
She and her husband, Larry, have a 7-year old daughter. She is active in her church and works hard in order to be able to be her own boss and, therefore, set her own schedule.
“I now have a child and she is my number one job,” said the real estate broker. “I believe that God gave me this child to understand what unconditional love is.”
The Four Corners News-Sun, Winter Haven Sun and Polk News-Sun will continue to highlight veterans from the Polk County community in our July 15, 22 and 29 editions.