Veteran reflects on her transition from the Canadian military to Bayshore

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By: Sahar Khan, Communications Coordinator

Military personnel posing in front of war memorial in on remembrance day
Sandra’s (3rd from left) last Remembrance Day in uniform with her father and extended family.

Dressed in her uniform for the last time, Sandra Jalonen stands with her father at the cenotaph in Newfoundland that lists her late grandfather and many other relatives from this small outport community that made sacrifices for their country.  It is truly a deeply meaningful moment of reflection.

For Sandra, Director of Operations for Bayshore Medical Personnel, Remembrance Day is a family affair. Last year, she commemorated her last Remembrance Day as a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces by visiting her father in Newfoundland and this year, she intends to do the same, but for the first time as a veteran.

“Remembrance Day is an emotional day for me,” she says. “It’s really about honouring friends that were lost and making sure I take a moment to think about them and be grateful that we had a chance to know them.”

Sandra’s journey in the military started as a young girl, as she grew up in a military family. She moved around frequently and always had a deep understanding and connection with the military culture. However, for her, the decision to join the military was originally about getting her education funded.

“There was (and continues to be) a Regular Officer Training Program that offered to fund your undergraduate degree and you would repay it by serving time,” she explains. “But I think the important piece is not why I joined but why I stayed and why I stayed for so long.”

A woman in military uniform sitting at the doors of a grounded helicopter
Sandy in Bosnia, 2002

It was her love for the work and the people that kept Sandra there for over three decades. The military offered her a sense of adventure, personal growth, and a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. She has 31 years of experience in the Canadian Armed Forces, the majority of which was dedicated to the Canadian Forces Health Services.

Her dedication to healthcare administration within the military eventually led to senior leadership roles focused on operational planning, command and institutional improvements. Some of Sandra’s most memorable experiences  are being in challenging situations alongside her peers. Sandra recalls how her first domestic operation from a health services perspective involved assisting migrants who had been mistreated and abused.

“We were helping them get clean, giving them support, doing medical exams on them, taking care of them. For me it was the first time seeing the ability of the Canadian Armed Forces and how quickly they could mobilize and get stuff done,” she explains.

A woman in military clothing posing infront of a sign 

At Bayshore, Sandra’s role involves helping support federal institutions such as the military, police, Veterans Affairs Canada, correctional facilities and more with recruiting healthcare professionals, as well as retention and human resources support. This role extends beyond just providing healthcare as Sandra explains it includes the well-being and career development of healthcare professionals within Bayshore.

“One of the reasons I was interested in Bayshore was because of the company values, and actually believing in those values and demonstrating them,” she says. “My key responsibilities are, as Stuart’s told me time and again. ‘Take care of the people.’ So, I take care of the people within Bayshore, but I get to wear my own clothes now. I get to wear pink.”