Virginia Department of Veterans Services
Daniel M. Gade served in the Army for more than 25 years. After enlisting in 1992, he graduated from West Point in 1997 and was commissioned as an Armor officer. He was wounded in action twice in Iraq while serving as a tank company commander. He earned an MPA and PhD from the University of Georgia, and served in the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Bush.
While on active duty, he was the co-founder of a major experiment in incentivizing veteran transition (The Independence Project) and served on various VA boards and commissions, including the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation. After retiring from the Army in 2017, he was an appointee at the US Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) and professor at American University. He is the author of the newly-released book “Wounding Warriors: How Bad Policy Is Making Veterans Sicker and Poorer.
Virginia Employment Commission
Carrie Roth was appointed by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin to serve as Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission and Advisor to the Governor for Strategic Initiatives, bringing over 28 years of broad experience as an entrepreneur, political and non-profit leader to the position. Prior to her appointment, Carrie was the founder of Rerouted, a strategic growth and communications consultancy. From 2013-2021, she served as CEO and COO of Activation Capital and the VA Bio+Tech Park - where she led the strategy and execution of creating more advanced-technology and life sciences companies throughout the region; executed a growth strategy resulting in 84% increase in net position of organization; created the $5 million Ecosystem DirectInvestment Fund; supported the regional accelerator of Lighthouse Labs LLC and Dominion Energy Innovation Center; launched a partnership with VCU and VCU Health to create the Health Innovation Consortium and $4.5 million pre-seed/seed fund; and attracted and supported more than 50 new companies on campus.
Carrie previously served as Virginia Deputy Secretary of Commerce & Trade for Governor Bob McDonnell, where she led the successful effort before the General Assembly to provide over $113 million in new economic development funding – including over $57 million to support Virginia’s innovation economy. Prior to joining the McDonnell Administration, she was President of her company Capitol Square Communications. Carrie served as Press Secretary for U.S. Senator George Allen, whom she worked for in various roles from 1993 to 2003, and as Policy Director for the gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. During her career, she has appeared in state, national and international media, including: the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Washington Times, LA Times, New York Times, Investor's Business Daily, Politics Magazine, "Perspectives" in Newsweek Magazine, and on the International Travel Channel. In 2019, she was named a Pioneering CEO by myTechMag; in 2018, she was recognized by Richmond NAWBO as Community Leader of the Year and RTD Person of the Year Honoree; and in 2016, she and her husband, Doug, were the JDRF Central Virginia Chapter Gala Honorees. She was a member of the Virginia Workforce Development Board, Region 4 GOVA Council; and Board of Directors of Tympanogen, VirginiaBIO (Treasurer), ChamberRVA, RVATech (Chair), and Sports Backers (Chair). Carrie is a former member of the Board of Directors of Lighthouse Labs, Dominion Energy Innovation Center, Startup Virginia, Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, JDRF Central Virginia Chapter Gala Committee, Richmond 2015 UCI World Championship, and Virginia Beach BioMedical and Healthcare Task Force; Board of Managers of the Virginia Life Sciences Fund and Riverflow Growth Fund; and President of the Fort Monroe Foundation Board.
She attended Hillsdale College and is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. An avid runner and 15-time marathon finisher, Carrie and her husband, Doug, reside in Chesterfield County.
Virginia Employment Commission
A dedicated/passionate person with a heart for assisting and serving our veterans to gain suitable employment back into the workforce.
Virginia Department of Veterans Services
Ms. Beverly served as an officer for 14 years in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps (MSC) after graduation from Howard University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). While on active duty, she served in a variety of assignments as a Healthcare Administrative MSC Officer including overseas in Germany, Company Command in Texas, and two deployments to Iraq. Her last military assignment was as Patient Administration Chief at Fort Lee, Virginia. Ms. VanTull has adopted as her life mission to advocate for veterans like herself after her active service ended in 2014. She has lent her passion and expertise to numerous individuals, Veterans Service Organizations, and non-profits throughout Virginia in establishing programs to assist veterans, women, and their families. She is a lifetime member of Women Veterans Interactive (WVI), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Military Officers of America Association (MOAA). She is also a member of the National Association of Professional Women. Ms. VanTull has served in the Virginia Department of Veterans Services as Program Manager since 2016. Beverly assumed the new position of Women Veterans Program Manager in fall 2018 to provide full-time support to Virginia’s women veterans and their unique and diverse needs at the state level.
Our Sister’s Keeper Movement
Tamekiah Aguirre is one of the co-founders of Our Sister’s Keeper Movement, a veteran-led and civilian-backed organization. As a member of the organization, Ms. Aguirre advocates for all Military Sexual Trauma survivors and non-survivors. She is dedicated to changing the culture in the military as it relates to sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, intimate partner violence, exploitation, trafficking, and sexism. We also do not turn a blind eye to our sisters and brothers in arms who are also facing racism, homophobia, and religious intolerance.
Ms. Aguirre is a U.S. Army veteran formally serving with the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade and the 4th Infantry Division located at Fort Hood, Tx Tamekiah Aguirre is actively involved with supporting the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, which addresses the response of the Department of Defense to sex-related offenses committed against members of the Armed Forces. The bill was recently passed, but there is still much more work to be done.
Ms. Aguirre is currently an investigator and has 22 years of service. She is a firm believer that society can always assume the broken pieces of our life circumstances are terrible and therefore, it is imperative that we involve and include the needs at every level of the veteran female and especially minority veterans.
Alpha Gamma Xi Military Sorority, Inc.
Rabbina A. Banks was born in Birmingham, AL on January 25, 1979 to the late Rabb Malik Muhammad & the late Zakiyyah Ayesha Muhammad. She is a 100% disabled veteran of the United States Air Force. During her military career, she worked as an Aircraft Fuel Systems Technician. Everyone calls me Bina for short. She is the owner of B Ayesha Inc. She started her company after surviving a stroke. Something about almost dying that renews your sense of purpose. Her main mission in life is to continue to serve the communities around the country and the world. One of her many passions, as a philanthropist, is the plight of the woman veteran and their families. She is also an advocate for more research and understanding of invisible chronic illnesses.
Robin Beres is an associate editor and columnist with the Editorial Department of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Beres’ columns deal with current events, national defense, family life and a variety of social issues. Before joining the Times-Dispatch in 2004, Beres served on active duty for 23 years. Duty stations included the Navy’s flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels; Allied Forces Southern Europe (NATO) in Naples, Italy; and Naval Space Command.
Beres holds a degree in U.S. History from Excelsior College. She serves on the board of directors of the Richmond chapter of the Navy League and she is a member of the Blue Star Mothers of America and Leadership Metro Richmond. In 2012, she chaired the Richmond Welcomes Home the Heroes Parade.
She and her husband Anthony live in Henrico, Va. Their oldest son, Joe, is a naval aviator and their youngest, Emily, is a ROTC midshipman at Cornell University.
Virginia Employment Commission
Hello, I’m Charlie Burks. I’m a PROUD member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc and Prince Hall, I. H. Clayborn Military Masonic Lodge #61.
I received my BSHRM in 2021 from Trident University. I currently work for the State of Virginia as a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist in the Crater Region area.
Born and raised in Bogalusa, Louisiana. The quote I live by is: “If I can help somebody as I pass along then my living shall not be in vain.”
Minority Veterans of America
Lindsay Church (they/them) is the Executive Director and co-founder of Minority Veterans of America. She served in the Navy as a linguist from 2008-2012 as an LGBTQ service members under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. Lindsay attended language school at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA where she learned Persian-Farsi. In 2012, she was medically retired and returned home to Seattle, WA.
Upon returning home, Lindsay attended the University of Washington where she obtained a BA in Islamic Studies and MA in International Studies with a focus on the Middle East. Lindsay began her work with veterans in 2014 and has since worked in higher education, traditional veteran service organizations, congressional advocacy, and more. Despite taking great pride in her work, through the years, she noticed that there were many people being left out of the veteran community.
In 2017, Lindsay resigned her position as the Commander of an American Legion post to, along with co-founder Katherine Pratt, start the Minority Veterans of America (MVA), an organization dedicated to creating community belonging and advancing equity for minority veterans. The primary communities MVA serves are veterans of color, women, LGBTQ, and (non)religious minority veterans.
Military Women's Memorial
Marilla Cushman joined the Foundation staff in March 1997 as the Director of Public Affairs and Development and served in that capacity until July 2020 when she assumed the role of Vice President for Development and more recently Senior Advisor to the President. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served nearly 25 years in the US Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Her assignments included Special Assistant for Public Affairs to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Chief Media Inquiries, Headquarters, Department of the Army; Chief, Public Affairs Plans and Policy Division, Headquarters, US Army Europe; Executive Director to the Defense Secretary’s Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services; and Program Manager, Advertising and Sales Promotion, for the Army’s “Be All You Can Be” Campaign, US Army Recruiting Command. She is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College; a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Maine with a BS in education. She also attended graduate school at the University of Kansas.
George Mason University
Dr. Niyati Dhokai is a Research Assistant Professor in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at George Mason University, and she also serves as Program Director for the Veterans and the Arts Initiative at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. In recognition of her work, Dr. Dhokai is the 2018 recipient of the Change Maker of the Year award from the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and the 2018 recipient of George Mason University’s Jack Wood Award for Town Gown Relations in the faculty/staff category. Prior to joining the faculty at GMU, she worked with veterans and service members recovering from injuries in post-acute neurorehabilitation in the Washington D.C. metro area by designing and facilitating music activities to support community integration.
Hampton VA Medical Center
Dr. Nicole Dutta is the Psychology Program Manager for Women’s Mental Health at the Hampton VA Medical Center, providing oversight for the women’s mental health and military sexual trauma counseling services available through the medical center. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in evidence-based trauma therapies and is a VA certified provider of several therapies, including Cognitive Processing Therapy. Dr. Dutta has a specific role in training students and is the training director for the Hampton VA’s psychology post-doctoral fellowship. She also has significant experience in process improvements to enhance both patient and employee satisfaction. Dr. Dutta has completed several details with the VA’s Women’s Mental Health Program Office, including a recent detail focused on developing women Veteran-focused peer support services and training programs. Dr. Dutta obtained her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Auburn University.
Laura Hatcher Photography LLC
Laura Hatcher is a published event, headshot and branding photographer in Northern Virginia. She started her photographic journey while on active duty with the United States Navy. Now a retired Naval Officer, Laura owns and operates a small photography studio in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Her notable clients include the USNA Alumni Association, Texas A&M The Bush School of Government & Public Service, The City of Alexandria, Visit Alexandria and CACI International.
She continues to serve the Veteran community with her headshot and military ceremony photography. She is also an avid mentor and leader in her local community as evidenced by receiving two 2021 Small Business Development Center Veteran of the Year Awards for Alexandria and the State of Virginia (runner-up) and the Virginia Department of Veteran Affairs Woman Program Office 2021 Trailblazer Award.
Hampton VA Medical Center
Catherine McDonald was born at Fort Ord, in Monterey, California, as a daughter of a career Naval Aviator. After many childhood moves in support of her father's naval career, she eventually settled in Michigan, where she has called her home since 1972. McDonald was commissioned in the U.S. Navy, as an Ensign in the Nurse Corps, in February 1987. McDonald has been in nursing since age 15. She started her nursing career as a certified nurse’s aide from a high school program, and then became a licensed registered nurse at age 19. During these earlier years, she worked in Midland, Michigan in oncology, neurosurgery/ neurology, and labor and delivery. She transferred to Bay City in 1984 and worked in critical care units. In 1986, she graduated from the University of Michigan, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Summa Cum Laude. In 1993, she graduated from Michigan State University (MSU), with a Master of Science degree in Nursing, and completed the family clinical nurse specialist program. This program led to both Michigan and Virginia professional licenses as a family nurse practitioner (FNP). Her first active duty Navy assignment was in 1987, at (then) Naval Hospital Portsmouth (now, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, or NMCP). At Naval Hospital Portsmouth, she was a staff nurse in a male open-bay surgical ward, an open-bay pediatric ward, and eventually, in the coronary care unit. In August 1990, she deployed to Fleet Hospital FIVE in Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She released from active duty, to the Naval Reserve, in July 1991, to pursue her nursing graduate degree at MSU. From 1993 to 1996, she worked in private practice as an FNP: First, in a community-based clinic with primarily patients diagnosed with HIV in Detroit, Michigan; then, in a large pediatric practice in Port Huron, Michigan. In March 1996, after almost three years in private practice, she realized that she missed the camaraderie of her Navy and accepted a recall back to active duty. McDonald proceeded to have many stateside and overseas Navy tours from 1996 to 2019 in the following order: two years as a primary care manager at the Branch Medical Clinic, Naval Weapons Station Charleston, South Carolina; four years as an FNP and Department Head of Education and Training at U.S. Naval Hospital, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; four years as the Wound Clinic manager at NMCP; three years as an FNP at U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka, Japan; two years as a department head at the Branch Health Clinic on Naval Security Annex
Northwest in Chesapeake, Virginia; two years as an FNP at NMCP Family Practice Clinic; three years as a Force FNP for the Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic (CNSL), Medical Readiness Division (MRD) in Norfolk, Virginia; six months as an FNP at Branch Medical Clinic, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia; and, finally, two years again at CNSL MRD in Norfolk, Virginia. During her tour in Japan, she deployed for eight months to Expeditionary Medical Facility, Kuwait, where she served as the Installation Medical Authority of the Kuwait Naval Base. From March 2017 to October 2017, she deployed for seven months as Medical Officer-in- Charge of the Expeditionary Medical Clinic at Isa Air Base, Bahrain.
In May 2018, she resumed being the Force FNP and Women’s Health Program Manager for CNSL MRD in
Norfolk, Virginia. As the Force FNP, she provided female waterfront Sailors comprehensive wellness exams, management of acute and chronic medical conditions, long-acting reversible contraception, and diagnostic procedures to screen for cervical cancer. A highlight of her naval career was her research application to the Office of Naval Research, Technical Solutions, to design and create a first-ever disposable, portable negative pressure wound therapy system for operational combat forces. Additionally, she published a chapter on wound care in a nationally-recognized nursing textbook. McDonald’s military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and various service and campaign awards. Her personal awards include selection by Naval Medical Center Portsmouth
as an Associate Master Clinician. Since her transition from the U.S Navy, McDonald has taught pharmacology as an adjunct professor at East Coast Polytechnic Institute in the nursing program and worked at a primary care clinic during the COVID crisis. In November 2020, she embarked on a new career at the Hampton VA Medical Center as the Women Veteran’s Program Manager. In this role, she serves as a strong women Veterans’ advocate, and is a driving force for improving the culture as well as delivery of care for women Veterans.
Minority Veterans of America
Stephanie Merlo is an inaugural member of Virginia’s LGBTQ Advisory Board. Prior to this appointment, she served on the Board of Directors for Virginia Pride, ending her five-year tenure as the organization’s President. Stephanie has a storied history of service and leadership positions, supporting her communities at the cross-sections of underserved, marginalized, and veteran populations.
Presently, Stephanie works with Reclaiming The Monument as their Community Outreach and Organization Director. Reclaiming the Monument mission is to utilize design and technology to amplify community voices and to challenge dominant narratives in historical memory in the pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable society.
An Army veteran, Stephanie served as a logistics specialist at Dexhiem in Germany. In this role, she oversaw a multi-million-dollar portfolio of equipment operations, maintenance, and requisitions for ten Divisions.
In her free time, Stephanie serves as the regional chapter leader for the Minority Veterans of America, the nation’s largest veteran-serving organization that focuses efforts on building community and advocating on behalf of our most marginalized and underserved veteran communities. Stephanie and her wife love to spend time with friends, do wine tastings, and are constantly entertained by their three pets, Benson, Samus, and Keekee.
Military Women's Memorial
Master Sgt. (Retired) Lachrisha Parker is a proud native of Fort Wayne, Ind., with 28 years of honorable and distinguished service to the nation. She retired from the Army in September 2018 and currently, she serves as the Community Engagement Manager for the Military Women’s Memorial.
Prior to joining the Memorial, Parker served as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Vice President and Chief Operation Officer of the Bluestone Group LLC, an international professional service company located in Washington, D.C. Parker is a Top 10 Finalist from the 2019 Ms. Veteran America competition—winning two Awards for “Top Talent-Showstopper” and “Top Evening Gown-She Wears it Well”. Ms. Parker was appointed as one of 12 elite personnel to advise the Department of Veteran Affairs, (Center for Women), Advisory Committee Member on Women Veterans. She also has volunteered as a dental assistant with Mission of Mercy in Fredrick, Md., and served at Walter Reed National Military Medical CenterBethesda, Restorative Dental Clinic as a dental assistant volunteer.
Her previous assignments in a wide array of leadership positions, including Alert 2K area leader, Assistant Color Guard non-commissioned officer (NCO), Senior Training and Operations NCO, Casualty Assistance NCO, Battalion S-1 NCOIC, Equal Opportunity Leader, Victim Advocacy Leader, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program NCO, Executive NCO to the Deputy Chief of Staff, Executive NCO to the Director of OCAR Staff and as the Executive NCO to the Director of the Operation and Training, to the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve (OCAR), Fort Belvoir, Va.
Parker is a graduate of the Adjutant General Corps Basic and Advanced Courses, Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic and Advance Non-Commissioned Officer Course, Security Manager Course, Company Trainer Course, SHARP Course, Equal Opportunity Leaders Course, HR Plans and Operation Course, DEOMI Leader Team Awareness Course, Reserve Component National Security Course (National Defense Institute). She holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College. Parker and her husband Reggie (Army veteran) have five children: Amber, Kia, Desmond, Keyana, and Reginald Jr. (R.J.), and their family dog “Boss” and currently resides in Maryland.
Hampton VA Medical Center
I am a certified family nurse practitioner and have practiced in family medicine since 1995. My current clinical responsibilities are that of the Deputy Women's Veteran Program Manager, Hampton VAMC. In the past as a clinical expert working for the HAMVAMC within the IDES Program of Compensation and Pension. This is an amazing vibrant program including both Active Duty and Veterans. I am the SME for Compensation and Pension GYN review. I completed the Women’s Residency Program online and as a faculty member for the first on-site residency program at the Hampton VAMC. Women’s health has always held a special interest to me. I practiced at a very vibrant Well Women Clinic, at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia as part of a funding program from the “DACOWITs” research from 1997-to 2000. My involvement in this clinic provided me an opportunity to care for and investigate the needs of women who were either active duty, veterans, or family members.
United States Air Force
Retired CMSgt Deborah Rothwell is a bona fide celebrity in military circles. Chief Rothwell has performed the tribute “Old Glory” for both military and civilian events since 2002. It all started as a favor for a good friend’s retirement ceremony, where she read the poem on short notice. Since then, she has performed “Old Glory” close to 500 times.
What makes her rendition so unique is not just her delivery, but the currency of events she has woven into the stanzas. “Anytime something significant happen to America, like September 11, the Boston Bombing, Sandy Hook, or the events in Charlottesville she tries to make it a part of “Old Glory”. I just want to keep the message going, so that we never forget them. Especially for the fallen and their families.
No matter how many times she’s performed, she hasn’t lost sight of why she started doing this in the first place. When I do “Old Glory” I want to give a comprehensive view of what the flag really stands for, which is love for our country.
Chief Rothwell dedicates her performances to her late husband of 35 years, Master Sergeant Leon Rothwell Sr.
Turner Strategic Technologies
While formally training in education and fine arts, Jamie has made the leap into small business leadership and construction management through self-study and mentorship in Project Management. She is currently President of Etolin Strait Development Group, protege of Turner Strategic Technologies. As a female leader in the construction industry, Jamie has been featured in Construction Business Owner, Construction Executive, ThriveGlobal, Authority Magazine and other digital publications about breaking glass ceilings and leading in a male-dominated industry. Jamie leads construction teams from proposal to close-out and remote teams working across the country at various military installations. In addition, she has taken a deep dive into small business experiences, stories, statistics, and strategies to formulate her own framework for managing administrative functions.
Jamie is also a mom of three, wife, artist and author.
On The Horizon
Laura Leigh is a native of Newport News, Virginia. She had a 25-year active-duty Navy career and currently is the Jobs for Veterans State Grant (JVSG) Veteran’s representative at the Virginia Employment Commission office in Galax, Virginia. She entered the Navy after her Army Officer husband’s death on active duty. Prior to that she taught high school social studies, photography for several community colleges and was director of the American Red Cross office in Pusan South Korea.
As a Naval Officer, her warfare area was Integrated Undersea Surveillance serving as Operations Watch Officer at NAVFAC Bermuda and Officer-in-Charge of Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 204, Lakehurst N.J. Following a tour as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Commander, Naval Surface Reserve Force, she attended the Naval Postgraduate School obtaining a MS in Manpower Systems Analysis with follow on assignment to Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Manpower and Reserve Affairs. She was stationed at Chief of Navy Personnel, Washington, DC. on 9-11 2001. CAPT Venable had several commands but after 9-11 the Navy utilized her expertise in manpower planning and human resources. She wrote the manpower requirements establishing the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center where she was assigned as the Executive Officer coordinating the establishment of training at Army Posts across the US for Sailors deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Before retiring, she served as one of the seven charter members on the Navy Human Resources Executive Board.
Laura Leigh resides in Woodlawn, Virginia where she owns a 77-acre farm breeding and selling sport horses. She also operates an Equine Assisted Therapy program (On The Horizon) there for Veterans and those with autism and other emotional or developmental issues that can be helped by time with horses.
In addition to her degree from the Naval Postgraduate School, Laura Leigh holds a B.A. in Government from the College of William and Mary and a B.A. in Religion and Culture with a minor in Appalachian Studies from Virginia Tech.