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Virginia Women Veteran Award Winners Announced at 2021 Virginia Women Veterans Virtual Summit, Women Veterans from Alexandria, Hampton and Portsmouth Recognized For Their Exceptional Contributions

From left to right, Laura Hatcher, Patrice Malena & Denice Williams

Three Virginia women military veterans were recently honored for their exceptional service to the veteran community during the 2021 Virginia Women Veterans Virtual Summit held June 23 and 24.

Denice Williams of Portsmouth was named the 2021 Virginia Women Veterans Change Maker, Laura Hatcher of Alexandria received the 2021 Virginia Women Veterans Trailblazer Award, and Patrice Malena of Hampton was presented the 2021 Virginia Women Veterans Lifetime of Service Award.

The awards were announced during the annual Summit hosted by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) in collaboration with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) and other public and private partners.

The Virginia Women Veterans Change Maker of the Year Award recognizes exceptional commitment to the advancement of Virginia women veterans through the establishment of innovative programs or supportive networks.

The 2021 winner, Denice Williams served in the US Marine Corps for 29 years and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  In 2006, she became a life member of Disabled American Veterans (DAV). She is past Commander of the DAV Portsmouth Federal Chapter and past state DAV Virginia commander. She continues in leadership roles in DAV on the state and national levels and currently services as the DAV representative to the Virginia Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations (JLC) where she is a strong advocate regarding issues affecting women veterans.

The Virginia Women Veterans Trailblazer Award recognizes creativity, vision, courage, commitment and tenacity in advocating for and creating changes to improve the quality of life for Virginia’s women veterans.

The 2021 winner, Laura Hatcher, is a graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and a US Navy veteran. She served 16 years on active duty aboard ships and on bases throughout the world and stateside. She retired with the rank of Captain in 2018. After retiring, Hatcher worked for various non-profit organizations before pursuing her passion to become a professional photographer and operates a studio in Old Towne Alexandria.  She is in demand as a speaker who teaches women veterans and military spouses how to be successful when they transition from military to civilian life.

The Virginia Women Veterans Lifetime of Service Award is presented to an individual who has given many years of leadership in helping improve the lives of women veterans.

The 2021 recipient, Patrice Malena, is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner and served as the Women Veterans Program Manager at the Hampton VA Medical Center from 2012-2020. She earned her B.S degree in nursing at Old Dominion University and her M.S. at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her clinical practice includes caring for women veterans with various health issues and coordinating care for maternity patients. After joining the Hampton VAMC, Malena was instrumental in establishing a Women’s Health Center on its campus. She continues to be a leader in advocating for the care of women veterans on the state and national levels.

“One the highlights of our annual Virginia Women Veterans Summit is to recognize and honor our outstanding fellow Virginia women veterans for their dedication, innovation and contributions to improving the lives of all women who serve or served in our military,” said Beverly VanTull, Women Veterans Program Manager at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. “Denise Williams, Laura Hatcher and Patrice Malena are all most deserving of these awards.”

“Denise Williams, Laura Hatcher and Patrice Malenda have given us an example to follow. They served our Nation with tremendous pride and honor and have continued their lifelong commitment to service,” said VDVS Commissioner John Maxwell. “Not only are we glad to recognize their contributions, but we are also grateful they are partners in advocating for women veterans. There are thousands of women veterans who have made Virginia a better place to live, just like these three leaders.”

The theme of this eighth annual Virginia Women Veterans Summit was Empowered BOLD with a Purpose: Finding Clarity Beyond Crisis. This is the second year that the Summit was held as a virtual online event. More than 900 women veterans and others participated in this unique two-day summit which featured more than 60 speakers, forums and discussion groups on topics of importance to women veterans such as programs and services VDVS offers, career strategies, entrepreneurships, educational opportunities, financial stewardship, and personal health and wellness.

In addition to the Virginia Employment Commission, other participating partners in the VDVS Virginia Women Veterans Virtual Summit included Altria, the Cohen Veterans Network, Comcast, Cox Communications, Center for American Military Music Opportunities (CAMMO), Dominion Energy, Leidos, the PenFed Foundation,WR Systems, the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM), the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and Virginia Relay.

All of the Summit speakers and presentations were recorded and will available to view free of charge in the future. For more information, please visit .

About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services

The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. VDVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, VDVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-

term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-

term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It also operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit