Compassion, dedication to family, determination and a strong work ethic are the common threads among this year's young recipients of the Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards.

In some cases, they've taken on big responsibilities at home: a Coast Guard son who was the primary caregiver for three younger siblings; a National Guard son stepping in to help run his family's cattle farm; a Marine Corps stepson who stepped up at an early age to help his single mother before she met the Marine who would change their lives.

But in addition to their responsibilities on the homefront, and their academic excellence — plus other school activities such as athletics — these children also find time to contribute to their communities in a remarkably diverse array of volunteer causes.

Operation Homefront has added a sixth category this year, for the National Guard Military Child of the Year. In the seventh year of its awards program, Operation Homefront has doubled the award money to $10,000 for each recipient.

Each also received a laptop and other donated gifts as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., where their awards were presented by senior leaders of each service branch Thursday evening.

Nearly 500 nominations were received. The six recipients were chosen by a committee that included active-duty and retired service members, spouses of senior leaders, veterans service organization leaders, teachers and community members.

There are some coincidences among the recipients this year.

For one thing, two have the same last name, but these Parsons families are not related. In addition, parents of two recipients happen to work on the same staff. Coast Guard Military Child of the Year Caleb Parsons' mother, Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Story Parsons, is deployed to Qatar, where she works on the staff of U.S. Air Forces Central Command — which is led by Air Force Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, father of Air Force Military Child of the Year Sarah Hesterman.

The recipients:

Air Force

Sarah Francesca Hesterman, 16, of Doha, Qatar, daughter of Air Force Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman, commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and retired Air Force Col. Jennifer Hesterman is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Air Force. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront
Sarah Francesca Hesterman, 16, of Doha, Qatar, daughter of Air Force Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman, commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and retired Air Force Col. Jennifer Hesterman is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Air Force. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Sarah Hesterman, 16, of Doha, Qatar, daughter of Air Force Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman, commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and retired Air Force Col. Jennifer Hesterman is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Air Force.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Sarah Francesca Hesterman, 16, of Doha, Qatar, daughter of Air Force Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman, commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and retired Air Force Col. Jennifer Hesterman

Sarah is a passionate advocate for the rights of women and girls in the Middle East. She founded the "Girl Up Qatar" club at her high school, the American School of Doha, which has a predominantly Arab population. The club is part of the United Nations Foundation's Girl Up campaign to empower girls.

The school faculty was supportive of her idea, she said, but she encountered a lot of pushback and criticism from students.

"They thought promoting the rights of one group would take away rights of another," she said.

She embarked on that mission after researching the global aspect of women's and girls' rights for a speech project, and was particularly interested in those issues in the Middle East.

Overall, the support has outweighed the opposition, she said. Her arguments have succeeded in convincing even boys to join the club. "The club has been able to change some people's minds. ... We want boys as members as well. We show boys it's an OK cause to stand up for, even if you're not a girl," Sarah said.

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Sarah Francesca Hesterman

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Sarah Francesca Hesterman

Her most treasured accomplishment so far is being named Malala Girl Hero in October 2014 by the organization led by Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist for female education who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012.

Sarah was named one of BBC's 100 Women of 2014 and participated in a service trip to Tanzania to help build a school for orphans. She's also helped serve holiday meals to troops at Al Udeid Air Base.

The high school junior hopes in the future to work with the United Nations to address issues of women in developing countries.

The military life has given Sarah the opportunity to experience different cultures, she said. She advises other military kids to take advantage of the opportunities they are given. "You choose how to spend your time. You can do positive things, or be negative."

Army

Cavan Grey McIntyre-Brewer, 13, of Duncannon, Pa., son of Capt. Steven Brewer, medical detachment commander at Kirk Army Health Clinic, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and Michelle McIntyre-Brewer is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Army. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront
Cavan Grey McIntyre-Brewer, 13, of Duncannon, Pa., son of Capt. Steven Brewer, medical detachment commander at Kirk Army Health Clinic, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and Michelle McIntyre-Brewer is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Army. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Cavan McIntyre-Brewer, 13, of Duncannon, Pa., son of Capt. Steven Brewer, medical detachment commander at Kirk Army Health Clinic, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and Michelle McIntyre-Brewer is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Army.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Cavan Grey McIntyre-Brewer, 13, of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, son of Capt. Steven Brewer, medical detachment commander at Kirk Army Health Clinic, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and Michelle McIntyre-Brewer

Cavan has been inspired by wounded warriors and veterans and is committed to making a difference in the lives of wounded warriors and veterans. "He doesn't see the disabled veteran — he sees the person," said his mother Michelle.

A big influence in his life was his great-great-uncle Johnny White, wounded in the Korean War.

In Uncle Johnny's later years when he fell ill, the family took him meals and other things he needed — including socks — and helped out with his animals.

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Cavan Grey McIntyre-Brewer

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Cavan Grey McIntyre-Brewer

Later, when he was 8 years old, Cavan went with his Cub Scout troop to sing Christmas carols at a state veterans' home in Fayetteville, North Carolina. One Korean War veteran asked if Cavan would return for a game of checkers.

At the time, Cavan was feeling down because his father was deployed. That's when his Socks for Vets program was born, which has grown into a national organization in which volunteers across America visit state veterans' homes and provide comfort.

Later Cavan met an injured Marine corporal who had lost both legs but really liked camping and hiking. Cavan had gone to a 4-H event to train pack goats. So he trained a goat for the Marine, enabling him to hike without carrying a heavy pack of supplies.

Thus was born his Pack Goat project; There are now 33 goats trained to carry supplies in such fashion, each named after a wounded warrior. Cavan also helps his sister Lorelei, 9, with fundraising for her program Heart Hugs, which collects, sterilizes and distributes compression pillows sized for pediatric heart patients. Lorelei was born with health challenges and has undergone multiple open-heart surgeries. Cavan has had his own lung and skeletal issues.

"When I see Cavan each week, I see a leader, a patriot, an advocate for veterans, and a bright future for our country," said Jennifer Burke, registrar and instructor for the Shiremanstown Homeschool Group. "He is kind and helps set an example of respect for other students to follow."

Cavan is hoping his Operation Homefront award will help him realize another dream: a memorial service at the Korean War Memorial on Veterans Day.

"I want to honor Uncle Johnny and all the others who served," he said.

Coast Guard

Caleb Michael Parsons, 18, of Suffolk, Va., son of Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Ward Parsons, stationed at Tactical Law Enforcement Team South in Opa Locka, Florida, and Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Story Parsons is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront
Caleb Michael Parsons, 18, of Suffolk, Va., son of Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Ward Parsons, stationed at Tactical Law Enforcement Team South in Opa Locka, Florida, and Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Story Parsons is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Caleb Michael Parsons, 18, of Suffolk, Va., son of Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Ward Parsons, stationed at Tactical Law Enforcement Team South in Opa Locka, Florida, and Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Story Parsons is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Caleb Michael Parsons, 18, of Suffolk, Virginia, son of Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Ward Parsons, stationed at Tactical Law Enforcement Team South in Opa Locka, Florida, and Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Story Parsons

Caleb is heading for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, this summer, which is only fitting because he's not only an Eagle Scout but also a colonel in the Air Force Junior ROTC program — the highest rank authorized in that program.

He has a 4.21 grade-point average, has earned an award for patriotism and has won awards for his involvement in high school sports.

But the accomplishment that he likes to point to is holding down the fort on the homefront while both of his parents were away for military duty late last year and early this year. He has three younger siblings: Isaac, 16, Nathan, 13, and Kyleah, 9.

"The most important non-academic accomplishment to me is helping raise my siblings. They're family. They're what matters," Caleb said.

His father left last July for his new duty station in Florida and returned in March to Virginia on temporary duty until this summer. His mom returns this summer from deployment to Qatar.

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Caleb Michael Parsons

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Caleb Michael Parsons

Coincidentally, his mother is deployed to Qatar to the staff of Air Force Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, chief of U.S. Air Forces Central Command — and father of Sarah Hesterman, the Air Force's Military Child of the Year.

Caleb notes that his mom will return after the Military Child of the Year gala, and after his graduation.

His parents arranged for six couples — all current or retired military — to help clean and cook dinners on different days.

"But the decisions were mine. They made that clear," Caleb said. He had power of attorney to take care of his siblings. His grandmothers each came to help at different times.

Caleb was named Outstanding Cadet three times. In addition to his strong academic and JROTC accomplishments, Caleb is on the swim team and cross country track team at Kings Fork High School, where he received the Cross Country Track Co-Captain Varsity Award, Junior Varsity Award and Sportsmanship Award.

In an interview just before a ceremony honoring Caleb and other honor graduates at his high school, his father Ward said his son is quite humble about his accomplishments. Although he lives with Caleb every day, Ward said seeing the award nomination that pulled together Caleb's many accomplishments put it all in a different perspective.

"When he was named as a finalist and I read [the nomination], I was saying, 'Wow, this kid is impressive,' " the proud father said. "If he runs for president, he's got my vote. And if he needs me, I'll be his head of security."

Marine Corps

Christopher-Raul Rios Rodriguez, 17, son of Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine Allen Smith, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, and Griscelda Smith is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Marine Corps. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront
Christopher-Raul Rios Rodriguez, 17, son of Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine Allen Smith, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, and Griscelda Smith is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Marine Corps. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Christopher-Raul Rodriguez, 17, son of Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine Allen Smith, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, and Griscelda Smith is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Marine Corps.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Christopher-Raul Rios Rodriguez, 17, son of Gunnery Sgt. Jermaine Allen Smith, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, and Griscelda Smith

At a very young age, Christopher stepped up to being the "man of the house," long before his mother married his Marine stepfather.

"He held us together. He did a lot of things you wouldn't think a 7-year-old would do," said his mother, Griscelda Smith — such as helping her out with his younger sister and brother and helping around the house while she was working and going to school full-time.

In those early years, his mother made the decision to get herself and her children out of an abusive situation, with the help of neighbors and the police. She and the children lived in shelters for a time.

A few years later, his stepfather came into their lives, and military life turned out to be a dramatic improvement.

Christopher struggled with grades in his freshman and sophomore years, he said, at a time when his stepfather was deployed. "I kept thinking about him. I was worried. We had discussions over the phone … he told me he'd be fine and he'd be home soon," he said.

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Christopher-Raul Rios Rodriguez

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Christopher-Raul Rios Rodriguez

He now has a 3.25 grade-point average and is taking advanced placement courses in government and politics. He is team captain of the Lejeune High School Varsity baseball and soccer teams. He's been accepted to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he hopes to major in kinesiological sciences.

He's an assistant coach for children ages 8 to 12 in the Lejeune Youth baseball, soccer and basketball programs, and is active in the high school's Buddy Club, an organization that establishes bonds between students with and without special needs by hosting trips and activities, among other activities.

Christopher's life experiences factor heavily into the advice he gives to other kids: "Never give up on what you want to strive for. Set a goal. Make a plan. Get into your mind you're going to achieve it and never quit. Be determined to achieve it."

National Guard

Zachary Alan Parsons, 16, of Warrensburg, Missouri, son of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parsons, currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Debbie Parsons is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the National Guard. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront
Zachary Alan Parsons, 16, of Warrensburg, Missouri, son of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parsons, currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Debbie Parsons is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the National Guard. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Zachary Parsons, 16, of Warrensburg, Missouri, son of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parsons, currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Debbie Parsons is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the National Guard.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Zachary Alan Parsons, 16, of Warrensburg, Missouri, son of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parsons, currently at the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Debbie Parsons

Zachary and his mother, Debbie, have been carrying the load on their 80-acre cattle farm in Warrensburg, Missouri, since his father Jason left for deployment in January 2013. Although Jason's unit returned a year ago, he had injured his shoulder in Afghanistan and has been at the wounded warrior unit about three hours away since.

His father's absence "has really been a hardship on Zachary and the family," Debbie Parsons said. "We live on a working cattle farm, and Zachary has had to pick up a lot of work since his dad left, as it's just me and him now. Sometimes he does not give himself enough credit for that."

It's been difficult, but he has managed to keep up his 3.85 grade-point average with these extra responsibilities, Zachary said. He's a sophomore at Sacred Heart High School in Sedalia, Missouri.

He still manages to get about seven hours of sleep at night, he said, between school, farm work and his other activities. "But I'm busy right up until that time," he said.

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Zachary Alan Parsons

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Zachary Alan Parsons

He's an active member of 4-H at the local and state levels, is involved in the Boys and Girls Club of Whiteman Air Force Base, including leadership roles, and is a junior deacon for his church.

Zachary has been named Missouri Military Youth of the Year and Whiteman (Air Force Base) Youth of the Year in 2013. He's a member of the Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council, helping support children of deployed military members.

He volunteers as a 4-H camp counselor with Project Smile, making tie blankets for sick children admitted to a local emergency room. He also volunteers with Hero Packs, supplying backpacks with writing supplies to children of deployed troops, and is a Salvation Army bell ringer.

The sophomore is keeping his career options open, but he's interested in economics, law and medicine and doesn't rule out the military. His older sister Taylar McDonald is in the Army; his brother Shaun Roach is in the Air Force.

This is the first year Operation Homefront has included the National Guard as a separate category. "I'm really happy they did," Zachary said. "We stay in place, but our loved ones are gone a lot doing various things. We have to deal with separation. This shines a light on what we go through. We National Guard kids go through a lot."

Navy

Emily Elizabeth Kliewer, 17, Orlando, Florida, daughter of retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Kliewer and Cynthia Kliewer, is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Navy. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront
Emily Elizabeth Kliewer, 17, Orlando, Florida, daughter of retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Kliewer and Cynthia Kliewer, is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Navy. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Emily Elizabeth Kliewer, 17, from Orlando, Fla., daughter of retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Kliewer and Cynthia Kliewer, is the 2015 Military Child of the Year for the Navy.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Operation Homefront

Emily Elizabeth Kliewer, 17, of Orlando, Florida, daughter of retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Kliewer and Cynthia Kliewer

Emily has accomplished many things in her 17 years, but her proudest accomplishment is being named the Scholar Athlete of the Year at Dr. Phillips High School. "Those are two things that are very important to me," said Emily, who maintains a 4.92 grade-point average with numerous accelerated courses and has been a competitive swimmer since the age of 4.

She's a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, the swimming and diving team captain at her high school, a four-time school record holder, and has placed in multiple events at Florida state and regional levels. She also competes on the school water polo team.

But these and other accomplishments are not her best qualities, said John Magrino, an administrative dean and previous athletic director at Dr. Phillips High School, who nominated her for the Operation Homefront award. "Emily's character is impeccable and without question, her greatest quality."

She does not seek out attention, notes her mother, Cynthia, but rather "leads from behind ... whatever needs to be done, she does it."

Emily also is compassionate and makes family a priority, her mother said. "I've had a lot of health problems, and she was always there," said Cynthia. "She would call me from school, and ask, 'Mom, do you need anything?' Emily hates hospitals, but she's been there with me."

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Emily Elizabeth Kliewer

2015 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards Emily Elizabeth Kliewer

Her favorite volunteer activity is Peer on Peer Mentoring, in which she works daily with about 12 special-needs students. She volunteers as a swimming instructor for Special Olympics as well as volunteer coach and "hugger" — encouraging the swimmers after their meets.

She volunteers for Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Give Kids the World events, where terminally or chronically ill children vacation at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.

Emily plans to attend the University of Idaho and has two scholarships.

The Navy moved Emily's family five times before she turned 11, but she looks on those experiences as giving her an advantage.

She knows some military children don't like moving. But she advises them to make the best of it. "I think it's great because of all the new experiences."