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Lorrena Black

image of Lorrena Black seating in front of a fireplace

Lorrena Black

Retired Army officer Lorrena Black: From ‘wallflower’ to leader

In 1997, Lorrena Black was six months removed from graduating high school and working at yet another menial job when she realized she needed a stabilizing force.

“I found myself in a place where every time something got hard, I would quit,” says Black, who was raised by a single mother in a low-income household.  "I was also a follower, and I was a little scared of where I might end up if I didn’t change.”

She surprised everyone by enlisting in the Army.

Twenty-five years of military service followed, including 21 years of active duty, and her following days were over. She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees while in the Army and became an officer, leading dozens of soldiers at a time. After medically retiring as a major in 2022, she took a position in leadership development for a women’s professional organization in Detroit.

“The person I am is different today,” says Black, 44, of Berkley. “As a teenager I would do just dumb stuff trying to fit in somewhere, trying to follow somebody else. But the Army really pulled out the leader in me.”

‘Finding and using my voice’

Black initially signed up for a four-year stint as a human resources specialist. At basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, one of her fellow recruits called her a “wallflower” because of her quiet nature and tendency to follow the crowd.

That would change as she progressed through the service and climbed the ranks. After re-enlisting, she was inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, which is comprised of the top 2% of noncommissioned officers in the Army.

Black saw much of the world while serving, including Kuwait, Egypt, Germany and Korea. She also had two daughters in the Army. Learning how to be a good mom and a good soldier was challenging, she says, but “luckily I figured out how to be good at both.”

At Fort Gordon, Georgia, she was selected for the Army’s Green to Gold program, which allowed her to take two years to finish her bachelors’ degree while participating in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). After graduating, she earned her commission as an officer and was sent overseas as part of a signal platoon, which provides communications support.

“After I was commissioned, I took my two girls to Korea for two years. That proved to be a challenging time as I went through a divorce,” she says. “So, there I was: new single mom, new second lieutenant, new to the Signal Corps and new platoon leader of a 50-person platoon. It was the best job I had during my time in the Army.”

Black said she loved leading her platoon and seeing the positive impact she had on her soldiers.

But her service wasn’t without adversity. Black says she dealt with subtle racism — she’s biracial, with a white mother and a Black father — and repeated verbal abuse from a superior, who at one point acknowledged he wasn’t “really good at dealing with females.”

“I, like many other women veterans, experienced adversity and challenges during my time in the service,” she says. “In one situation, I was dealing with a bully and an extremely toxic work environment. I overcame it by eventually finding and using my voice and standing up for myself.”

‘The Army changed my life’

Lorrena Black is a minority veteran, a woman veteran and a non-combat veteran. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for her to shy away from identifying as a veteran — and, like many underserved veterans, to fail to seek out the benefits and resources she earned for her service.

But that’s not the case.

Black, who lives with an autoimmune disorder, has a 100% service-connected disability rating through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She uses VA health care in Ann Arbor and says she has been happy with the experience. She’s also transferred her remaining higher education benefits to her children.

Today, she is remarried to Clarence Black, a public affairs officer in the Army Reserve, and they have four teenagers between them. As part of her job at Detroit-based Inforum, she runs a program for women veterans and makes sure they know about their earned benefits.

This once-reserved follower not only learned to be a leader, but she now develops leaders. Black attributes much of her personal growth to her time in the military.

“I do identify as a veteran,” she says. “I would scream it from the rooftops if I could. Why? Because the Army changed my life, and I am forever grateful and proud of my service and what I have accomplished during my time serving.”


Veterans of any age or era — or their dependents — may qualify for benefits and resources, such as VA health care, mental health services and education and employment assistance. The MVAA serves as the central coordinating point for Michigan veterans to get connected to their benefits. Contact us at 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838) or visit our website at

If you're a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention 24/7/365. Call 988 and press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at