Diane (Bodnar) Nelson grew up in Canton, Ohio with her parents, who were both teachers, and her two sisters. When she was in high school, she saw a Cadet on CPRC (Cadet Public Relations Council) and was impressed. Entering the Academy with the Class of 1989, she enjoyed the academic rigor and participating in a variety of Cadet activities. In the fall of 1988, she became pregnant, and chose to keep her baby. This was the first time Academy officials had to deal with this type of issue, and she took a leave of absence, returning home to live with her parents. While on a maternity leave of absence, she struggled to find health care, and once she delivered her son, she had to relinquish custody to her parents so she could return to West Point and graduate with her class (December Graduate). Once she graduated, she married the father of her son, John Nelson, who was serving as a graduate assistant with the Cross Country Team. After a variety of assignments as a Signal Corps officer, she was selected to return to the Military Academy as an instructor in the Department of Systems Engineering, where she taught from 1997 to 2000. In 2001, she medically retired, but has remained at West Point with her husband, who is teaching in the Department of English and Philosophy. The Nelson family now has two children, John Jr. and Crystal.
In this interview, she talks about her childhood, her West Point experience, and the obstacles she encountered as a pregnant West Point Cadet. She describes returning home, the difficulties of maintaining health insurance, and giving up custody of her son so she could return to the Academy to graduate with her class. She discusses her experiences in the Army as a Signal Corps officer, and returning to West Point to teach Systems Engineering. Finally, she recounts her experiences as an Army spouse and the birth of her daughter.