Editor’s note: Military Times has profiled the winners of each service’s Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year award for 2018. All of the winners will be honored Thursday night in Washington, D.C., and will receive $10,000 and other prizes; for more about the award and for links to other honorees, click here.

Five people nominated Rebekah Paxton for the honor of Operation Homefront’s 2018 Army Military Child of the Year — her mother, an older brother, her aunt, her grandmother and a family friend.

The 17-year-old senior often served as a de facto parent as her mom and dad tried to deal with the aftereffects of her father’s war injuries. Rebekah took care of herself and her younger brother and sister, making sure they were fed, getting them ready for school every morning, and taking them to sports practices and games.

Rebekah, who has attended three different public high schools, now is homeschooled by her aunt and uncle in Missouri, where she now lives along with her younger brother. She’s taking dual-enrollment classes at Missouri Southern State University along with her Advanced Placement coursework, and has competed in varsity track, tennis, soccer and cross country. She’s a Girl Scout who has always been active in her church.

She plans to use the $10,000 she will receive toward her tuition at a community college, her next step toward her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. She competed for two years in three subjects in the University Interscholastic League and earned the Medical Science Award of Excellence.

Rebekah’s family’s military service spans from the Civil War to the present day. Her oldest brother is an Army officer.

Her advice to other military children: “You’ll get out of the problem you’re in. ... I know you’ll get out of the situation you’re in now.”

She vividly remembers the good times, when she and her dad danced together, and the days they made breakfast together.

Thus, to military parents, she says: “Cherish the time you have with your children. Spend as much time as you can.”

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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