By Leanne ThomasMay 10, 2019
HONOLULU - Tripler Army Medical Center kicked-off National Nurses Week with an opening ceremony to honor all nurses; and also unveiled "Pualani," a bronze statue of a Vietnam-era nurse formerly named, "Nurse," also referred to as, "The Lady," at Regimental Park, May 6.
The statue was sculpted by Rodger Brodin and is one of four three-foot models exhibited across the country from 1984-1990, with the intent that a seven-foot heroic statue of "Nurse" would be placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. to represent the women who served in the Vietnam War.
"Nurse" helped to raise the first million dollars towards the Vietnam Veterans Women's Memorial in Washington D.C., inspired by many veterans and volunteers through the Women's Memorial Project.
"Pualani" was donated to Tripler by Teddy Brown Harrison, a U.S. Army Nurse Corps nurse; a Veterans Affairs nurse in the Vietnam Soldier Annex, Los Angeles, Calif.; and an American Red Cross volunteer charge nurse at Presidio, San Francisco, Calif., during the War Orphan Airlift (Operation Baby-lift) Fall of Saigon, 1975.
Harrison worked with the Women's Memorial Project until 1989, then in Hawaii, she founded the non-profit organization, Remember "The Lady," and was granted partnership status in the Vietnam War Commemoration.
Harrison's daughter, Catherine "Pualani" Dodge provided remarks at Tripler's Nurses Week Ceremony, accompanied by her step-father, Franklyn Harrison.
"I am the living 'Pualani,'" Dodge said, who was only seven-years-old when she witnessed thousands fall in love with "Nurse," as her mother advocated for the cause.
Dodge then explained that the Army nurse statue was removed from the project due to politics that took place "behind-the-scenes" causing all of the little statues to disappear.
During this time a change in legislation dictated a new process for memorials to be allowed in Washington, D.C., and the director of the National Gallery of Art at the time, J. Carter Brown, in his role on the Commission of Fine Arts, ordered a design competition to choose a replacement statue for display at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
In 1993, the replacement statue was unveiled on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial 300 feet southeast of the iconic sculpture called, "Three Fightingmen," near the "Wall."
"When the replacement statue was dedicated, and the drape was lifted, many people there gasped because "Nurse" wasn't there," Dodge explained. "And to this day, some people still think she ("Nurse") is this statue ("Pualani") on display at the 'Wall.'"
Several years later, the last of the four "Nurse" models was given to Harrison by Neil Brodin, the sculptor's last surviving brother, to recognize Harrison's steadfast dedication to honor the women who served in Vietnam.
When Harrison and her family were first reunited with the statue, Dodge said, "Memories flooded our front room ... My mom and I cried, and I think my stepfather cried too."
Harrison, with the support of her family, decided the legacy of "Nurse" would be best remembered with those she is a tribute to, the Army nurse.
"One day on the way home from the airport, we all looked up to our left and saw this pink, beautifully stunning, magnificent place on the hill ... and we all thought, 'that's where she belongs,''' explained Dodge. "And my mom then named our Army nurse statue 'Pualani,' for Hawaii, and after me ... and you - all of the Tripler nurses."
On a day they thought would never come, "Pualani," translated in Hawaiian to "Heavenly Flower," found a permanent home at Tripler's historical section on the fourth floor, Mountainside entrance, to honor all nurses, and especially Army nurses and the nurses at Tripler.