In 1967 graduated Registered Nurse, Comrade Sonia enlisted in the air force on the basis of a Short Service Commission (a temporary contractual military career). Basic training at Camp Borden was followed by a one-year posting at the Stadacona Naval Base in Halifax. From there, Comrade Sonia was posted to an army hospital in Iserlohn, northern Germany for the next one and one half years. This hospital was under British Command which included the Canadian Medical corps. With a posting back to Canada, Comrade Sonia spent the next four years with the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa.
Comrade Sonia grew up in a small farming community south of Winnipeg but knew early in life that she wanted to travel and experience world adventures. She said, “I knew I made the right decision; I have never regretted joining the military; it’s something every person should experience.”
At Camp Borden, Comrade Sonia participated in learning new skills, particularly in the realm of military administration and memoranda/report writing which were non-medical in nature. This was a challenge but these new proficiencies were vital to her continued success. Comrade Sonia joined the air force as a Pilot Officer and continued up the ranks. When Comrade Sonia decided to pursue civilian life, she left the military with the rank of Captain.
Comrade Sonia was one of two dozen registered nurses who worked at the British-Canadian hospital in Iserlohn providing health care to the enlisted personnel and their families. Working together with the British Military Nurse Midwives, Comrade Sonia’s duties included looking after the pre-and-post natal needs of the women living on and off base. Captain Kamel worked twelve-hour shifts and as such, had compensating off-duty time which allowed her to travel to numerous European destinations. In addition she visited the Scandinavian countries and counts Cyprus and Lebanon in her list of travels.
Comrade Sonia kept in touch with family by letter and when time and space were available on military flights, she would take advantage of the opportunities to travel home. She has no complaints and states they had all the necessary equipment for their work and the meals were better than expected. While in Germany, Comrade Sonia lived on ‘economy’ meaning she lived off-base, and stated that the cost was “very reasonable.” Personnel at this base in northern Germany were offered additional compensation consideration as working in this area was (then) considered semi-isolation.
Comrade Sonia shared some indelible memories. She spoke of the fragility of life and sadly recalls the unpredicted complications of a routine surgery and the difficult moment of having to inform the family of the death. She also recalls Check-Point Charlie (Berlin’s best known crossing point between East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1969).
At the end of her Short Service Commission (SSC), Comrade Sonia decided to continue with her academic studies. She holds a Certificate in Public Service, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree (combined major) in Political Science and Economics. In civilian life, Comrade Sonia worked for the Anti-Inflation Board, the Federal Transport Commission and in transportation for the Provincial Government including focus on the transportation needs for persons with disabilities.
During the interview, Comrade Sonia shared, “It is important that we give proper recognition to the value of a Veteran. We must never forget that the many freedoms we take for granted are as a result of a lot of hardships along the way.” She is pleased that our young people are being educated through our Youth and Education Programme and feels reassured knowing that we have an active Service Officer.
In closing, Comrade Sonia said, “It’s a bonus that our Branch is in the centre of our community offering easy access for everyone.” Comrade Sonia shared that the generic nature of the interview questions allowed her to reminisce in a comfortable manner.
Captain Kamel, we thank you for your service.