Army commander advances her career with veterans grant

Sanford Arts coordinator serves country while learning more ways to help others heal

Sanford Health employee smile at her craft table with shelves of art supplies in the background.

On paper, Jessie Park is part of the fold at Sanford Health’s main medical campus in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“When people ask me what I do, it’s fun to be able to say I’m the program coordinator of the arts program at Sanford,” Park said about her work helping others heal using creative activities.

“Then they’re like, what? (There’s) this weird, two different types of person here.”

When she’s not shaping arts in health for patients with her Sanford Arts crew at the hospital, something else is taking a commanding presence in her life.

‘Humbling and fun’ to be Army officer

Park, a captain in the South Dakota Army National Guard with 11 years of service, is now the commander of Bravo Battery in the 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion.

“Not very long ago, females were allowed to be in these line units,” Park said about the honor. “I showed up in Yankton in 2015-16 timeframe and I was the first field artillery female officer.”

“To have 76 people absolutely dependent upon your awareness, your leadership, your guidance, that’s a huge responsibility. It’s really humbling and fun.”

Search veterans jobs: Find your next landing zone at Sanford Health

It’s also a lot of work and why she’s glad Sanford Health prioritizes recruiting and retaining employees with military experience.

“When I told my supervisor that I was going to take command and it was going to be really demanding, (he said), ‘Just tell me what you need.’ That was just like, yes, thank you. Great,” Park said.

That’s not the only time the health care organization has had her six.

“Left for 11 months (on deployment) and then came back and then less than a year later left again. But every single time it was, absolutely, thank you for your service. Anything you need? There weren’t any hiccups with coming back. It was so seamless every single time,” Park said.

Sanford Veteran Professional Development Grant

Sanford is now helping Park advance her health care career with the Sanford Veteran Professional Development Grant for Employees. It’s a grant, up to $3,000 annually, she’s using to learn about addiction counseling and prevention.

“To further your education when now I’m a commander, I’m also this program coordinator, then also I’m a new mom. All of that, there’s little opportunity to do extra stuff like that. To get that nudge of help from that grant was like, this is so awesome,” Park said.

The push is giving her ammunition to keep coming through for patients and those she leads on the battlefield.

“I need to understand who are my soldiers? How many soldiers do I have? Are they trained? Do they know what they’re doing?” Park said about being in command. “Same thing here (at Sanford). I need to know what artists I have here during the day. What are their qualifications? Have I given them enough education, indoctrination into what is Sanford?”

For Park, it’s an organization where patients come first and veterans are a top priority.

“On the surface, it looks like there’s a big difference (between my careers). When you think about the creativity of understanding what you need to do, what your mission is, who’s going to help you accomplish the mission, what are your tasks, it’s the same.”

Learn more

Posted In Behavioral Health, Scholarships and Sponsorships, Sioux Falls, Veterans