I was born October 13, 1981 in Maryland. I’ll let you do your own math on my age, since I’ll likely become embarrassed to admit it one of these days. I come from a long line of military service members, though I myself never joined the service. The first place I clearly remember living is Hamilton AFB when my father was stationed on the USS Enterprise CVN-65 which was based at Alameda. I don’t remember much about those years (I was only 5 when we left), but what I do remember is remarkably vivid. For instance, I can’t remember what my best friend Donald’s house looked like, but I do remember that he had a black cat that loved to get his belly scratched.
From Alameda we drove across the country (literally) to land in Harnett County, North Carolina. That is where I always say I “grew up” though many would likely argue that is an ongoing process to this very day. In any case, that is where I spent the majority of my youth. We lived with my maternal grandparents, Nanny and Granddaddy, on their small farm for the first few years. It was then that I learned many of the lessons of life that continue to shape and mold me today. The years spent at Nanny and Granddaddy’s are also responsible for my love of the outdoors. My father and I would take long walks, sometimes deep into the night, tracing the borders of fields and following barely visible game trails trough the pine and hardwood forests. I think, deep down, a part of me will always think of that small brick house at the end of the dirt road as home.
After attending (and graduating from) Western Harnett High School, I attended several colleges and universities. I obtained a degree in Laser Optics and Photonics Technology from Central Carolina Community College through my first foray into the wild world of higher education. From there, I attended NC State University, and pursued a degree first in Electrical Engineering, and then in Biochemistry/Zoology. I had dreams of becoming a world-renowned venom researcher and pharmaceutical developer. Sadly, a profession working with some of the world’s most deadly serpents is not a very wise path for an individual whose body chemistry is so temperamental that a dozen fire ant stings are enough to put him in the ER.
While at NC State, having some difficulty finding a major that fit me, my personal life took a nose dive. I dropped out of the Air Force ROTC when my second son was born. A long-term relationship ended abruptly and it felt like my world was crumbling to pieces and taking me with it. I tried to run from those problems and took a job with a government contractor building laser systems in Florida. That isolation was the last thing I needed, and it only served to tip me over the edge from distraught and dejected into full blown depression. It was then that I had one of the most profound moments in my life. In the midst of confusion bordering on desperation, my father said the following to me, and it literally changed my entire life:
“Son, you find your road through life, whatever that road is, and you walk it. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently, and don’t let anything ever stand in your way. The people who love you, who REALLY love you, will walk that road with you every step of the way.”
That conversation changed my perspective on who I was and what my purpose in life should be. It took a while for the full weight of his words to sink in and grow, but that was the moment that set my feet on the road that has led me to where I am now.
I enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and it was there that I met my future wife, Courtney. It was also at UNCW that another earth shattering event occurred in my life. One night in February of 2008, my father passed away suddenly. If it hadn’t been for the friends that had become as close as a second family, the unwavering comfort and support from Courtney, and the deep and abiding faith in God my parents had raised me in, his loss probably would have destroyed me. Even with the various columns of support that quite literally held me up and held me together, it took years to piece myself back together.
Now, I live in Charlotte with Courtney. My youngest son lives with us as does our daughter, and we visit as often as possible with my oldest son, who lives in Florida. We have a warm home, a close and growing family, and a strong faith that is nurtured through our membership at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. When I look back over the unbelievable chain of events that has taken me from a scrawny three year old with a broken leg in California, walking into an empty house on a Naval base to where I am today….a loving father, devoted husband, and successful author…. I am overwhelmed at the grace and the blessings of my life, and I thank Him daily for them.
And thank you for taking the time to read a bit about who I am, and why…
D. W. McAliley