Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    Four VA Employees Recognized with Patriot Awards

    Four VA Employees Recognized with Patriot Awards

    Photo By Bailey Breving | On Friday, April 12, 2024, four VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (TVHS) employees...... read more read more



    Story by Bailey Breving 

    Veterans Health Administration

    On Friday, April 12, 2024, four VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (TVHS) employees received Patriot Awards for their commendable contributions to supporting co-workers on military deployment to the Caribbean and Central America without disrupting Veteran health care.

    These awards, presented by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, honor individuals who have shown exceptional support to members of the National Guard or Reserve, as well as their families.

    In a heartfelt ceremony, Captain Lorenzo E. Vasquez, a behavioral nurse at TVHS and a member of the 402nd Civil Affairs and Special Operations Command, alongside guest presenter retired Master Sergeant Erinn Watkins, celebrated the dedication and commitment of these outstanding employees.

    “As soldiers and Veterans carried out their responsibilities within the Department of Defense, both domestically and overseas, these staff members demonstrated a remarkable level of commitment,” said Vasquez.

    Watkins, an accomplished Army Veteran with an impressive029A0666.JPG military resume spanning nearly 30 years, brought a wealth of experience and insight to the event. During her service, she was one of the first women to become an Army Pathfinder, played a crucial role in testing and developing important military equipment and programs, and dedicated her later years to mentoring younger soldiers. Now retired, Watkins reflects on her own military experiences to serve as inspiration for the nominees’ dedication to supporting their service members, co-workers, and other Veterans.

    “I hope that my story can show you what is possible when you have faith in yourself and decide to persevere when things get tough, no matter the circumstances. Everyone can lead a successful life and career, just as our nominees have demonstrated,” Watkins remarked.

    Given the critical operations conducted by the 402nd Civil Affairs and Special Operations Command in the Caribbean and Central America areas, the significance of these Patriot Award nominations is particularly noteworthy. Major Angel Carrasquillo and Lt. Col. Geary Ryan, commanders overseeing operations in these critical regions, expressed gratitude to VA TVHS staff members for their unwavering support for the mobilized soldiers.

    Vasquez reflected on the nominees remarking, "These individuals exemplify the values of service and sacrifice that define our healthcare system. Their unwavering dedication to supporting citizen warriors and veterans alike is truly inspiring."

    The awardees were recognized for their outstanding contributions:

    1. Laura Nicole Hutcherson, RN

    Laura Hutcherson, supervisor of the mental health outpatient clinic, was nominated for supporting her National Guard co-worker by providing military leave and managing work coverage while the soldier was deployed.

    She expressed her deep commitment saying, "I know I'm in the right place doing what I should be doing. I am a fierce proponent of getting the Veterans what they need, and not just in mental health." She added, "I am a fierce proponent of my staff and team. I joined a great team, and together we have built a wonderful team. I know I'm supposed to be here, I'm thankful."

    2. Cristina Ellis, RN

    Cristina Ellis, a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry mental health, was nominated for providing more than 40 hours of work coverage for soldiers who needed military leave and duty.

    She reflected on her experience as a new employee, stating, "I'm a new employee but I am blessed to be a part of this team. I work with some of the best people." She emphasized, "In addition to that, I feel like we all work so hard to serve the best patients - Veterans. I feel super supported, and in turn, I feel I can support the Veterans.”

    3. Karen Hall, ANCC-PMHNP

    Karen Hall, a mental health nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health certified nurse, was nominated for providing over 80 hours of support and coverage to soldiers while deployed on military duty.

    She highlighted the importance of collaboration with National Guard teammates, stating, “They’ve given us input about what’s going on around the world, and it helps create meaningful conversations to connect with our Veterans."

    4. Sean Cloughen

    Sean Cloughen, leadership consultant and a former US Marine with extensive law enforcement experience, provided work coverage in the Preventative and Management of Disruptive Behavior program while his co-worker was deployed performing duties in the National Guard. Cloughen harnessed his 15 years of prior law enforcement experience to educate staff and Veterans about high-risk behaviors and how to effectively use the Veteran Crisis Line across all sections of VA TVHS.

    He sees his role as a continuation of his prior service, saying, "What I did in law enforcement was trying to make the best out of the worst situations. Now I try to help our staff members who aren't Veterans understand some of the things Veterans go through and how they can make connections with them in meaningful ways that can change behavior."

    These employees' words and actions exemplify the unwavering dedication and commitment to service that characterize VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. Through their collective efforts, they continue to uphold the values of compassion, empathy, and support for the Veterans who have served the nation.


    Date Taken: 04.18.2024
    Date Posted: 04.18.2024 11:35
    Story ID: 468837

    Web Views: 38
    Downloads: 0