PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In 1988, a young Diana Norris joined the US Army Reserves. She served as a combat signaler until 1994.

“It was not a role that many females took, so I felt like I was really breaking boundaries,” said Diana Norris.

She was first assigned as a communication specialist in the 733rd Maintenance Unit in Canton. That led to two overseas trainings in Turkey.

Back at home, she received a promotion to Sergeant and her second duty assignment, which brought her to the 900th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) Unit in Bartonville.

“Which is where my medical exposure kind of started,” said Norris. “So, at that point, I actually decided that I wanted to become a nurse.”

This week’s CI Hero also paralleled her military experience to volunteer firefighting with the Marquette Heights Fire Department.

“After 20 years, I actually retired out of the volunteer fire service, but by then I was already well established in the medical field,” said Norris.

She graduated with a diploma in nursing in 1998 after her reservist commitment ended. She went on to receive her bachelor’s, master’s and is currently working on her doctorate degree.

“I started out at the bedside as a bedside cardiac ICU nurse,” said Norris. “I really liked the challenge of caring for the sickest of the sick and seeing them recover or in some instances, if they weren’t going to recover, [I would] guide them to the next phase of their life.”

Norris said her experience in the military translated to her success in the healthcare industry.

“The military gave me drive,” said Norris. “It gave me leadership skills. It gave me determination. It really gave me the values that you need to succeed and not let anyone stop you from doing what you want to do.”

It’s that grit that keeps Norris serving her community in her day-to-day life through her work at the OSF Healthcare Cardiovascular Institute.

“I dig into data,” said Norris, the service line manager. “I work on best practices in the cardiovascular world. Talk to a lot of doctors and other mission partners to find the best ways to care for cardiac patients.”

Norris said not accepting the average can catapult you to finding your place in the world. She said the military is a great way to start.

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