Alexis McCray was attending middle school in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The base went on lockdown, and it was scary for us because we knew our family was leaving [because of the war],” she recalled. Despite her fear, she decided at 13 to serve her country like her father and many other family members.
On the idea of service, she said, “I liked the security of it, and the family connectedness.”
Born in Anchorage to an Alaskan Native mother and an African American father, McCray said she found it difficult to find a sense of community with others. Her parents separated when she was young, so she was raised in New Jersey, where her father served in the military. At school, she felt different from other children, not only for being biracial and a military dependent, but also because her father was the single parent raising her. He retired in 2003 after 24 years of service, first in the Army and later in the Air Force.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t see many examples of professional women who were biracial. Being an adult now, I see a need for me to step up and be visible and give hope to anyone I can that we all can have an impact,” she said.
After graduating high school in 2006, McCray began an Air Force career that spanned 11 years. In 2010, she deployed to Kuwait to support units withdrawing from Operation Iraqi Freedom. She originally trained to be one of “the people who make the ID cards,” but found herself tracking convoys during the drawdown of Camp Bucca, where captured detainees were held during the war.
“My job was critical because I was reporting any injuries, medevacs or damage to vehicles to my commander,” she said, adding that the experience was “extremely unique” and “completely life changing.”
By the time her service ended in 2017, McCray was awarded an Air Force Commendation medal, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal, as well as an Air Force Expeditionary Service ribbon with a gold border for participation in combat operations.
Today, McCray is a student working toward an educational specialist degree. She also works with military service members and Veterans in her mental health private practice and serves on the El Paso County Veterans Advisory Board as the first woman and minority chair.
“I am loving seeing women veterans being proud of their sacrifice and their hard work,” she said. “Because we’re a growing population, but there is plenty of room for us to support each other.”
McCray’s partner, Tech. Sgt. Paul Hardy, who is still serving after 22 years, said he’s proud of what she’s accomplished and is still working to achieve.
“She’s dedicated her life to service,” he said. “She continues to do better for herself, so she can do better for others.”
We honor her service.