Army Reserve Soldier shares her story, serving her city and country

By Staff Sgt. David LietzFebruary 29, 2024

Army Reserve Soldier shares her story, serving her city and country
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Army Reserve Soldier Diane Mason pauses for a photo in her Chicago Police Department uniform with her daughter. Mason, an 18-year serving Soldier, successfully balanced the demands of being a police officer and Army Reserve Soldier. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice and several medical certifications. She continues to seek out further educational opportunities.

(Courtesy photo by Master Sgt. Diane Mason) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. David Lietz)
Army Reserve Soldier shares her story, serving her city and country
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Master Sgt. Diane Mason, G-1, Non-commissioned Officer in Charge, Personnel Support, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, is a retired Chicago Police officer and Army Reserve Soldier. She worked in a variety of roles as a police officer during her 32-year career. The City Council of Chicago and Mayor Richard M. Daley honored Mason with an official proclamation on October 3, 2001, for her quick lifesaving response during a domestic disturbance in which she saved a man’s life during a suicide attempt.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sgt. David Lietz) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. David Lietz)

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – “You must be very strong headed, uncomplacent and very spiritual,” said Master Sgt. Diane Mason, G-1, Non-Commissioned Offer in Charge, Personnel Support, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command. “Every minute of the day something changes. If you get complacent you can get killed. You must believe whoever is your god is going to protect you.”

Mason is an Army Reserve Soldier and retired Chicago Police officer who shared her story of service, early on with the Chicago Police Department and then later with the U.S. Army Reserve.

“Law enforcement and the armed forces both stress the importance of discipline, punctuality, responsibility, teamwork and decision making,” said Meghan Reynolds, Special Contributor, Community Policing Dispatch, August 2014. “Both require their officers to be quick on their feet and have the ability to commit to their decisions, whether that decision is to make a drone strike or an arrest.”

On Sunday morning, September 9, 2001, Chicago Police officer Mason embodied the department’s motto ‘We Serve and Protect’ when she responded to a call on South Evans Avenue in the Gresham district.

Her instinct and quick decision-making saved a man’s life.

“I was called to a house for a disturbance with a senior citizen who was missing out of Detroit, Michigan. I was able to locate his son and provided the elderly man with a one-way ticket back to Detroit. As we were walking to the bus station, he attempted suicide by jumping over the 95th Street ‘El’ (elevated train) ramp,” said Mason. “I jumped to grab him, and my belt got stuck on the guard rail.

Fortunately, a passing Chicago Transit Authority bus driver stopped by, right at that time, to help.

“He grabbed my feet and then I pulled the man up and over my head and we fell to the ground. I broke my right arm. I was off duty for six weeks,” Mason said.

During her 32-year career, Mason has been injured nearly a dozen times on the job.

Mayor Richard M. Daley honored her police work in a proclamation by the Chicago City Council one month later.

Mason did not start out life intending to become a police officer. She was born in an orphanage in Chicago and grew up in the Morgan Park neighborhood on the far south side.

“At a very early age, I learned I had to take care of myself. I wanted to survive,” said Mason.

She was adopted by a foster mother along with another girl and boy. By age 12, Mason was already working at various retail stores in Morgan Park to earn money.

“I worked as a candy store cashier, record store cashier and then as an assistant manager of a Jack in the Box restaurant,” she said.

At night, she would sit across from her brother, on their beds, whispering in the dark about the future.

“I would ask him ‘what are we going to be when we grow up?’” said Mason, who became a Chicago Police officer, by chance.

“I was going to buy my mom a birthday cake and there was a guy handing out flyers to take the police department entrance exam. I asked someone to watch my daughter. I took the bus and went over to take the exam. I entered the Chicago Police academy at 20 years of age,” Mason said. “They wouldn’t let me go on the street until I was 21 years old.”

Once she was of age, Mason began patrolling the streets as a Chicago police officer.

“I was a patrol officer in the 2nd (Wentworth) 3rd (Grand Crossing) 5th (Calumet) 6th (Gresham) 7th (Englewood) and 8th (Chicago Lawn) districts,” said Mason. “I was also a field training officer and served as an undercover officer. I was also on a crisis intervention team.”

Mason shared many disturbing stories while working as a police officer to include preventing an attempted rape in progress, by herself.

“There was a suspect trying to rape a woman with a knife at 79th and Morgan in an alley. The call came out as a woman being held at knife point. I was four to six blocks away, so I made a right turn into the alley and spotted the guy before he spotted me. I pulled my gun and eased up to approach him,” said Mason.

She apprehended the suspect and placed him in handcuffs before other officers arrived on the scene.

Mason emphasized that police work is not for the faint of heart and despite the challenges of being a police officer and single mother, Mason raised three children who became successful adults.

In her military service, while some are completing a military career at around age 40, Mason did not enlist until she was 40 years old, in 2005. Mason continues to serve in the Army Reserve with 18 years of service.

“I had my 40th birthday in Basic Combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina,” said Mason.

One of Mason’s best Army Reserve experiences happened at the 416th Theater Engineer Command, in Darien, Illinois, when she was serving there as a specialist.

“The (headquarters and headquarters company) commander, first sergeant and general allowed me to oversee the HHC section,” said Mason. “I had the opportunity to learn everything. The Army regulation’s dos and don’ts. I even went to the Army pay school and I loved that. I (eventually) was promoted and out of the 416th.”

Later in her career, another highlight of her Army Reserve service was when she was appointed as an acting command sergeant major.

“I was appointed a command sergeant major from June 2022 until November 2022 at Fort Bliss, Texas. I was appointed by the 2/290th Task Force Battalion commander, through the brigade command sergeant major and the brigade commander. They tell you everything they want you to handle,” said Mason. “You must be careful while you are in that position. You accept it as a humble blessing to keep you grounded in your current rank.”

And Mason, who is also an Army Reserve observer, coach/trainer, is committed to service and self-growth. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice from Governor’s State University and became a certified nursing assistant and phlebotomist through Moraine Valley Community College.

“The most valuable piece of advice I could give a brand-new Soldier is stay true to yourself, stay determined and get the most education you can get,” said Mason. “The professional military education and self-development courses are so important to your career.