Mrs. Debbie Paxton, MSN, RN

Hero of Military Medicine Civilian Award

Debbie Paxton has served as the Mental Health Advisor to the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment (WWR) in Quantico, Virginia since August 2008. She considers this rewarding job the culmination of decades of diverse nursing practice combined with 33 years of volunteer experiences as a military spouse.

Debbie was born into an Air Force family and moved ten times before she finished high school. She was working as a Registered Nurse at the National Institutes of Health when she met a Marine Captain stationed at Marine Barracks Washington D.C. She married Jay Paxton in 1980. Over the course of their Marine Corps journey they raised three children and completed 17 additional moves, circling back to reside at Marine Barracks Washington where General Paxton now serves as the 33d Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. As a military spouse, Debbie made a practice of volunteering at each duty station, to include the American Red Cross, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Marine Corps Family Readiness programs and Spouse Clubs. Her leadership skills were honed by participating in Leadership Education Seminars. As a nurse, she worked in pediatrics, maternal child health, nursing education and family practice. One of her more unusual jobs was serving as the Clinic Nurse for the British and Australian Embassies when the family was stationed in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

In 2005, while volunteering for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, she visited many wounded Marines and Navy Corpsmen who were recovering from battlefield injuries. As a nurse, she recognized that many of these wounded service members were also experiencing the invisible wounds of war, including Combat Stress Reactions, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. She researched the effects of TBI and combat stress reactions, visited treatment and rehabilitation programs and advocated for increased awareness of these injuries to senior Marine leaders and their spouses.

She returned to full-time work as the first Medical Case Management Advisor at Wounded Warrior Battalion-West after the WWR was established in April 2007. The WWR assists seriously wounded, ill and injured Marines and their families during the phases of recovery and offers specialized resources and guidance to any Marine unit with recovering Marines. Debbie also advised the Sesame Workshop “Talk Listen Connect” educational project for young children of military families facing the challenges of multiple deployments, wounded family members or the death of a loved one.

Debbie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Cornell University-New York Hospital School of Nursing in New York, NY and a Master of Science in Nursing/Family Nurse Practitioner from George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. She continues to advocate for the service members and families who battle wounds, injuries and illnesses sustained while serving in the nation’s Armed Forces.