Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Caring Enough to Help Recover Veteran's Lost Historical Keepsakes

November 29, 2011

Green and Branscomb

Charge Nurse Duane Branscomb, R.N., B.S.N. took the time to help find Marine Corps Veteran Terrance Green’s missing bag of historical, Three Soldiers Statue photographs and documents. PHOTO: Quentin Melson, Public Affairs Specialist (TCF Intern).

HOUSTON - A nurse at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) recently helped recover an important piece of Vietnam War history while treating a patient using a special nursing technique.

“I was a charge nurse in Nursing Unit 3D when a patient called to say he could not find his things,” said Duane Branscomb, R.N., B.S.N. “I was very busy, but I told him I would see what I could do and call him back.”

“That day, I had just finished reading a Caritas Nursing book,” said Branscomb. “In the book, the author talked about being `authentically present’ when dealing with patients. I decided to use that technique right then since it was fresh in my mind. I stopped everything and focused on the patient.”

Nurses at the MEDVAMC have been using the Human Caring Theory of Nursing pioneered by Dr. Jean Watson for the past year. The theory includes such techniques as going beyond the outer appearance of the patient and taking care of one’s self in order to better take care of patients. Using this technique, Branscomb put aside what he was doing and concentrated on helping the patient.

“I called all of the supervisors and asked if anyone had seen an unidentified bag,” said Branscomb. “One said they had found a bag without a name on it and it matched what I was looking for. I called the patient and informed him that his bag had been found.”

“Once at the hospital, the patient came to my station and said: `Let me show you what I had in the bag,’” said Branscomb. “He pulled out these official military pictures. A few showed him standing in front of the famous Three Soldiers Statue. He told me he was the model for the African-American soldier on the right.”

The patient was Marine Cpl. Terrance Green, who, almost thirty years ago, while stationed at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., met Sculptor Frederick Hart by happenstance.

“I don’t know why he picked me,” said Green. “Mr. Hart had actually picked another African-American model first. But, he wasn’t quite right so he started looking for someone else.

“He went to the 8th and I Barracks and the public affairs chief recommended me,” said Green. “Mr. Hart asked if I was free that afternoon and asked me to go over to his studio. I got paid $7.30 an hour to model for the sculpture that he was commissioned to create. I had no idea the effect on people that the statue was going to have.

“The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is great because it has all the names of the Veterans who sacrificed their lives,” continued Green. “But with the Three Soldiers Statue, here was a memorial that Veterans could look at and see themselves. No matter what their ethnicity was, they could see themselves.”

This famous Three Soldiers Statue is now part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. honoring U.S. service members who fought in the Vietnam War, service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and those service members who were unaccounted for during the War.

The bag that Branscomb recovered included the only known photos of the Three Soldiers Statue in clay, before it was cast in bronze.

“It felt good to return his belongings, especially knowing it contained such rare items,” said Branscomb. “This situation is a perfect example of what happens on a daily basis at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. When everyone works together and has the same goals, great things happen.”

In addition to the rare photos, the recovered bag also contained a sketch of the African-American soldier statue that Hart had drawn using Green as the model. Hart signed the sketch with a personal message to Green.

“It is amazing to think that Mr. Green’s most valuable possessions were in that bag,” said Nurse Manager Mary Anne Reese, R.N., M.S.N.  “I am so glad Duane took those few minutes to listen, because that’s what it is really all about.”

The goal of nursing with Dr. Watson’s Human Caring Theory is centered around helping the patient gain a higher degree of harmony within the mind, body, and soul. It is achieved through caring transactions and involves the transpersonal caring relationship.

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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 130,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, Richmond, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost 1.3 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2011. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit www.houston.va.gov.