For Capt (Ret’d) Peggy Sherwood, an end to her military career has not meant an end to her humanitarian work. The 64-year-old nurse has signed on for a two-week trip to Pointe Noir, Republic of Congo, aboard the rail-ferry-turned-hospital Mercy Africa.
“I’ve been doing this for almost my entire life. I wasn’t going to stop just because I’m retired from the military,” she says. “I’m still working as a civilian nurse, and this was just another opportunity to help people.”
Sherwood has had a long career as a medical professional, both military and civilian. She went to school for nursing, obtaining post-secondary training through a London, Ontario, hospital before joining the army in 1971.
She spent time in the army, navy, and air force, both reserve and regular forces, before retiring in 2009.
“I’m very proud of my time in the military,” she says. “I spent a lot of time putting a lot of broken bodies back together, and doing whatever I could to help those in need. I will never forget my time there.”
Her military career included a deployment to Afghanistan in 2008, where she served in the operating theatre at NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar Air Force Base. While working with surgical doctors treating wounded military members and civilians, Sherwood got a firsthand look at the after effects of war.
“Treating kids was always the hardest, because there was no way they had any idea what was going on,” she says. “We always did the best work we could, but there are some things you don’t forget, things that remind you why you’re doing the work you’re doing.”
After 36 years it was time for Sherwood to hang up her uniform and move to the next phase of her life. She signed on with Mercy Ships, an organization that brings ships retrofitted as floating hospitals to areas with less consistent access to quality medical care.
“It was an organization I’d been interested in before, and they do work in the same kind of area as Operation Smile, another group I’ve volunteered for in the past,” she says. “I applied and they accepted me. It’ll be a great opportunity to do work in a place where it’s needed.”
Beginning April 16 Sherwood will travel to Morocco for a week-long mission with Operation Smile, before heading over to Pointe Noir to work aboard Mercy Africa.
“A lot of these people are in desperate need of surgery, procedures that will improve and even save their lives. Being a part of something like that is a huge point of pride for me, but it’s also the right thing to do.”
- Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer
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