(Smithtown, NY)…Earlier this year the Suffolk County Legislature enacted legislation designating June 12 as "Women Veterans Appreciation Day” in Suffolk County. Each legislator selects one female veteran from his/her district to recognize on that day at a ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Legislators and their honorees could not meet in person, but could participate via a Zoom meeting or by phone. The Legislators hope that next year they will be able to be acknowledge the 2020 and 2021 recipients at a luncheon.
Commander Diane Gardner deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in August of 2019 as the Director of Nursing Services for the Role 3 Multinational NATO Unit at Kandahar Hospital. Her rotation was the busiest one with respect to the number of patients hospitalized during the past five years. The Navy extended her assignment due to the COVID 19 pandemic, and she returned home on June 25 where family, friends and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta greeted her at Islip MacArthur Airport.
The Commander received the Bronze Star Medal for her extraordinary achievement and performance as a Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She and her team were honored with this medal for their joint effort to save a Navy Seal Chief who was shot multiple times. While in the operating room, the Commander gave the Chief 140 units of blood and her team spent eight and a half hours in the operating room treating his serious and complex injuries. Through their efforts, he survived and was transported for additional care at Walter Reed Hospital.
In 1991, she graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a BS in Nursing. In addition, that year, she commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force Nurse Corps. In 1997, she transferred to the US Navy Nurse Corps to pursue a degree and certification as a Nurse Anesthetist. Commander Gardner has additional certifications in critical care, emergency and trauma nursing.
When not deployed, Commander Gardner is a Nurse Anesthetist at Stony Brook University Hospital. She is also a Nurse Educator at Assessment Technology Institute (ATI Testing).
Earlier in her career, she was the State Director of Nursing for Virginia; served as President of the Virginia Association of Nurse Anesthetists; was recognized as the Virginia Commonwealth University “Clinical Instructor of the Year” and the March of Dimes “Nurse Educator of the Year.”
A lifelong resident of Kings Park, she is the daughter of Charlie and Diane Gardner of Kings Park. She has four children – three are adults, and the youngest, 13, is a student in the Kings Park School District. Family members took care of her son while she was deployed. She graduated from St. Anthony’s High School in 1987 and was the first daughter of an alumnus to graduate. Always active in her community, she was a member of St. Joseph’s Youth Group, played and coached St. Joseph’s CYO Softball and was a candy striper at St. John’s Hospital.
Legislator Trotta said, “It is an honor for me to recognize Commander Gardner for her outstanding accomplishments in nursing and her dedication to the military and her country. The fact that she was awarded a Bronze Star Medal is a testament to her extraordinary character and leadership skills.”