Chaplain Diefendorf served 24 years as an active duty, Army chaplain, assigned to various commands all over the world including the Pentagon where she worked on the Constitutionality of the Chaplaincy. She also contributed to the revision of the Army’s Field Manual on Leadership as it related to belief systems. She retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2006 to answer her church’s call to become the Academic Dean at Lincoln Christian University’s Undergraduate College, Lincoln, IL and was recalled back to active duty in 2010 on special assignment by the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Chaplains. Karen received multiple military awards to include two awards of the Legion of Merit and Instructor of the Year at the Army Chaplain Center and School. She was also the first female chaplain to become a paratrooper. Karen was inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame, class of 2020 and was recognized by the Military Chaplain Association with their National Citizenship Award, 2022.
Chaplain Diefendorf’s military awards include the Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Joint Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Parachutist Badge, and Instructor of the Year at US Army Chaplain Center and School.
Karen spent over 13 years in the local parish in Lincoln and Elkhart, Illinois prior to entering the Army.
Following the completion of her recall to active duty, January 2014, she served a Tyson Prepared Foods plant as a part-time chaplain while also serving as a chaplain with Hospice Care of South Carolina. She completed her formal pastoral career as Director, Chaplain Services for Tyson Foods, Inc., directing the largest corporate chaplain program in the world, retiring in April 2021.
She continues active ministry by hosting a weekly radio program, “Encounters With God” on Wreaths Across America Radio and serving on four boards, Wreaths Across America, Philippine Mission of the Churches of Christ, US Army Chaplain Corps Regimental Association, and Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality at the University of Arkansas.
She holds an undergraduate degree in Christian Education and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Lincoln (IL) Christian College and Seminary (now Lincoln Christian University) and a Master of Sacred Theology in Christian Ethics from Yale University. Karen completed all residency requirements for the Doctor of Ministry degree from Lexington Theological Seminary. She was honored to receive an honorary Doctor of Theology degree from Seoul Christian University, Seoul, South Korea.
She is married to husband, Walt, for 44 years and they have three adult children and four grandchildren.