PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Since the age of five years old, Diana Anderson has wanted to be a nurse. She fulfilled that dream and more, but not before she served in the U.S. Army in active duty as an interrogator for three years, 4 months and 20 days.

Anderson grew up in New York. She was the oldest of five children. Her father was an Episcopal minister and her mother a homemaker and seamstress. She learned to read at four years old and skipped kindergarten.

She had a favorite aunt who was a nurse and she “admired the daylights out of her.” When her aunt was first in nursing, the first hat a nurse received in those days was a probationer’s hat. Her aunt gifted that hat to her and Anderson still has it today.

The route to nursing was not a direct one. By the time she graduated high school in 1972, nurses were not in demand. In fact, at that time there was an over abundance of that profession. Anderson had taken German in high school and had an affinity for language so she enrolled in community college and took German, which she loved, French — which was just OK and Italian which she did not like.

A year after entering college, she decided to go to Germany. She applied for work there and secured employment as a maid — a stubenmaedchen which means maid.

“It was a great experience,” said Anderson, who had left home a very shy and timid young woman and had been afraid of her own shadow.

The experience improved her German and when she returned she finished college with an associate’s degree. She decided she would join the Army and go to language school but she was not yet 21 and her parents would not sign for her, so she had to wait.

Anderson took the Defense Language Aptitude Test which tests a person’s ability to learn a foreign language. A person must pass ESPERANTO, a made up language which is based on English, French, Italian and Latin.

“If you speak or studied language, it is not hard to figure out. I made a perfect score. I wanted to go to German but they said no. You will go to Chinese. I was sworn in and went to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California for 13 months,” said Anderson.

The school taught listeners and interrogators. Interrogators had to be able to listen, speak back and ask questions in Mandarin Chinese. There were only five students in the class — a Marine, an Army officer who was going to be stationed at the embassy in Taiwan and three interrogators.

Anderson said it was a fun class which was eight hours a day. After class they would go to the local theater and watch Chinese movies and then report back on the movies in Chinese. They went to authentic Chinese restaurants and ordered from a Chinese menu. Anderson said they learned very quickly what foods they were actually ordering. They also learned to write in Chinese.

“Their grammar is easier than English. It makes more sense,” said Anderson. “Chinese is not that complicated. English and German are complicated, not Chinese. Characters are hard to learn to write and I am left handed. There are a lot of strokes and I had to learn to go in the opposite direction.”

Anderson said Chinese is difficult in that it is a tonal languages where you say the word differently for a different meaning. She said it is similar to the way we do inflections in English when we say a word. Her musical background – having been in choir since around five, and also playing the trumpet, helped her with the language.

Anderson was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to the documents translation section of the 519th Intelligence Battalion. She had a top secret clearance and handled birth certificates and other classified material.

“I loved the Army,” said Anderson. “I probably would have stayed in if I had not done something stupid like getting married.”

Anderson did get out of the service when she married but she also later got divorced. She wanted to go back into the Army at that time but with two children it wasn’t feasible.

She used her G.I. Bill to go to school and become the nurse she always wanted to be. She also joined the North Carolina State Guard, a group underneath the National Guard which had the same rules and regulations. They were only paid when they were called out. They did private security and medical services. She was the Chief Nurse and attained the rank of major.

While going to school for nursing, she and her children managed to live on the $492 a month she received from the G.I. Bill.

For 18 years she worked as a nurse with just an associates degree. But, when she wanted to work with nursing students she was told she needed a bachelor’s degree so she decided to get it.

“It changed my outlook, my understanding of the implications,” said Anderson. “Then I had to do a masters and when I finished that, I could not stop and had to get my doctorate.”

Her doctorate is in health administration and she was the administrator at Sierra Blanca Rehabilitation.

Anderson has remarried and is now retired from her job at Summit Healthcare as an infection preventionist.

She has two cats, Boris and Natasha. And, she is the author of four books — three of which can be currently found on Amazon, and is in the process of writing two more.

Anderson is also a quilter and is a member of the Patriotic Piecers group which makes and awards quilts to veterans.

She recently volunteered at The Wall That Heals. She said she has lost many friends to that war.

Would Anderson recommend women to enter a career in the Army today?

“I loved the Army, said Anderson. “It totally changed my life.”

But, Anderson says it is different today than when she was in — today she believes the Army is putting too much emphasis with woke training instead of focusing on training for the Army's mission — so it would depend. She said everybody was green when she served and that the genes of the person who had your back did not matter to you.

“If that changed, I would say sign up as fast as she could. It teaches you to take care of yourself and the people around you, and be the best that you can be.”

Anderson also said she has always believed in women being in combat.

“Women are not soft dumplings like people think we are,” said Anderson.

“I was never in combat. I had it easy compared to others,” she said. “People do not understand the emotional baggage vets have and the burdens that some vets carry. People should be nice to vets, especially the ones who have been in combat.”

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

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