“If something happens to me, what are my regrets?” This is the question Episcopal graduate Mikey Diodene found himself contemplating in 2012. Mikey’s dad, Dr. Mike Diodene, Jr., passed away that year. In addition to being Mikey’s hero, Dr. Diodene was a military hero having served in the army for 40 years. Mikey had fond memories of growing up in a military family and attending drill weekends. He had even discussed his desire to serve his country with his dad long before 2012, but the time just didn’t seem right.
Fresh out of high school in 1999, Mikey was determined to play football for LSU. At Episcopal he had been a successful athlete, competing in football and track and field. When it came time to compete for a spot with LSU, he drew on the lessons learned in the Knights’ locker room – work harder, study longer and bring value to your team. The effort paid off. “I walked on at LSU. I made the team. I did it,” Mikey says. The perseverance required to walk on to that team and play football for Nick Saban has served him well as life has unfolded.
After graduating from LSU in 2003, Mikey began a successful career in medical sales. Working alongside local orthopedic surgeons to ensure the latest medical technology was being effectively used to save and improve lives, Mikey came into his own. At this point in his life he dropped the “y” from his name, becoming Mike Diodene, the executive.
In 2012, a series of events began to unfold that would test Mike’s resilience in ways he had not imagined. With the loss of his father, he began reflecting on his own legacy. “I took a step back and looked at things,” Mike says. He realized that he was fortunate to have earned a great education at both Episcopal and LSU. His blessings also included a strong marriage to wife Regina, kids and a flourishing career. However, growing up with Dr. Diodene as his father and role model, Mike learned early on the importance of serving and assisting others. This desire to serve remained and he still yearned to follow in his dad’s footsteps. So, at 34 years old this husband, dad and business professional applied for a direct commission with the United States Army Reserve. Initially, the military pointed to his age as a potential concern, but Mike respectfully requested further consideration. Again, his persistence paid off and a panel of officers approved his candidacy. Mike Diodene became a citizen soldier.
Just as Mike’s military career was taking off, his career was also blossoming and he was asked to oversee sales for Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Mike successfully juggled the requirements of being a soldier and an executive until he was called to active duty at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. When he returned, his job had changed and the two parted ways. For six months, Mike was out of work, enduring the ups and downs of a job search and never giving up. During that time, his wife was pregnant with their third child and the family, who lives in Woodland Ridge subdivision, was hit with the unthinkable challenge.
Mike says being unemployed during the flood of 2016 was actually a blessing in disguise, allowing him to repair his badly damaged home. With a gutted home, a new baby and deployment orders to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield, blessings were certainly needed. Unexpectedly, Mike received a personal visit from his Division Commanding General (3rd Medical Command), Major General William Lee. After seeing the destruction of Mike’s home and the challenges Mike was facing on the personal front, MG Lee provided an unexpected bit of relief. Mike’s deployment orders were canceled, allowing him to continue his family’s recovery process while commanding the rear detachment and remotely managing logistics for the forward deployed portion of his unit. Another blessing came in the form of a job opportunity. Despite the fact that his business suits had flooded, Mike interviewed for a position in casual clothes and got a job with Vascular Access Center. In 2018, he is still with the company and is now the Regional Director of Physician Liaisons in the Department of Business Development and Marketing. The company is supportive of his military service, which means everything to a man who is committed to serving his country.
“When God closes one door, he opens a window.” Mike says looking back on his experiences, he realizes he was more than prepared for the challenges he faced, even if he wasn’t aware of it at the time. Two-a-day football practices taught him to fight through adversity. Episcopal Cross Country’s Coach Dupe taught him to find the positives when faced with challenges. The military taught him to hunt the good stuff. His father taught him to serve others. Putting all of this together, First Lieutenant Mike Diodene is fully equipped to face life with the resilience, determination and fortitude to succeed.
Not only is 1LT. Diodene succeeding, he is also inspiring others. Fellow Episcopal classmate Matt Ward, Commander Select in the United States Navy, personally understands the demands of being a citizen soldier and the depth of character required to handle it well. “I’m also a reservist and understand what a difficult balance it is. You only have two hands, but have to juggle family, a civilian job, and a long list of military duties that you only get two days a month to complete when the active duty side gets all thirty! I could not imagine how difficult it was for Mikey to leave his career to join the Army Reserves, serve actively while simultaneously dealing with the loss of his house during the flood, all while supporting his family as a great father and husband,” says CDR (sel) Ward. “He clearly puts the needs of others first in a self-sacrificing manner.”
Enduring these challenges has only strengthened 1LT. Diodene. When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, he received orders to deploy and support the recovery. Given his healthcare management experience, 1LT. Diodene’s tasks are often medically focused. In Puerto Rico, he was one of two soldiers tasked with ensuring the safety of the island’s food supplies, inspecting everything from MRE’s to fresh produce. As a soldier, he helped bring 16 Department of Defense facilities back online, reopened six hospitals and assisted in restructuring the operation of an Army ground ambulance company. After hours, as a man who had experienced firsthand the destruction of a natural disaster, he helped locals with recovery efforts. 1LT. Diodene befriended a local family who owned a Puerto Rican neighborhood grocery store and pub that reminded him of the New Orleans eateries he knew as a child growing up in the Crescent City before relocating to Baton Rouge. 1LT. Diodene and another soldier helped the family get their generator running, patched the family’s roof and helped clean up the property. “There were a ton of similarities in the clean-up process over there, when compared to your own clean up at home after a hurricane,” he says when reflecting on how his own flood recovery prepared him to serve and assist others.
and 1LT. Diodene have been married for 12 years and together they have three children: Isabella (age 10), Victoria (age 6) and Nelson (age 2).
In speaking with First Lieutenant Diodene, you get the feeling of calm confidence. He seems to relish learning new things, from the intricacies of medical equipment to the inner workings of a FEMA disaster response. In less than 20 years since graduating from Episcopal, 1LT. Diodene has accomplished so much. He walked on to a highly competitive LSU football squad. He established a successful sales career. He is raising a beautiful family. He is honoring his father with a life of service to his country and to others.
He is resilient. He is prepared. He is a man with no regrets.
We salute you First Lieutenant Diodene. Thank you for your service.