DeLissio: Local bridge honors ‘extraordinary woman,’ decorated U.S. Army veteran

PHILADELPHIA, May 23 – Beginning with a request to introduce legislation to honor a dedicated U.S. Army veteran and the first woman to achieve the rank of brigadier general as a nurse, state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., joined others earlier this month to officially name the Brig. Gen. Anna Mae V. McCabe Hays Memorial Bridge located along Henry Avenue that passes over the Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia.

DeLissio was joined at the May 10 ceremony by Leslie Richards, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, who originally made the legislative request of DeLissio. Also in attendance: local and distant surviving family members of Hays, who died last year at 97; and Bruce Hoffman, president of the 21st Ward Veterans Association.

“It’s fitting that a bridge - a structure meant to stand the test of time - is being named in Brigadier General Anna McCabe Hays’ memory, and I’m so glad that this bridge will serve as a monument to her legacy,” Richards said.

The bridge is one of only seven bridges in the commonwealth named in honor of a woman.

“It was an honor to be asked by Secretary Richards to introduce legislation for a bridge in my district to be named after such a remarkable, trailblazing woman,” DeLissio said. “Her family could not have been more appreciative, and our community should be proud. General Hays was an extraordinary woman, one who had high standards, true grit, and believed in herself and her countrymen.”

Hays was the first woman in the U.S. Armed Forces to achieve the rank of general.

Inspired to join the Army Nurse Corps after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hays served in India, where she cared for over 49,000 patients.

After World War II, she also served in the Korean War, graduated from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and Catholic University of America, and guided Army nurses through the Vietnam War in her role as the 13th chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

In 1970, while serving as the chief of the Army Nurse Corps, she was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

“Due to the initiative of General Hays’ push to expand the number of nurses to field hospitals, many wounded soldiers were given a morale booster,” Hoffman said. “The sight of a nurse was a reminder the wounded had something to look forward to in going home. Mental attitude and hope played a major role in their recovery.”

Among Hays’ awards: the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Army Commendation Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Korean Service Medal.