Alyssa (Powell) McClellon

My life before Pathways Core Training was empty and chaotic. I was just a shell of a person, pretending to love herself and those around her. I felt broken and unworthy of being loved and cherished. My home life growing up was extremely toxic and abusive, which caused me to accept an abusive relationship that I stayed in for almost 7 years. I entered Pathways hoping to uncover the strength and courage that was buried somewhere inside me.

I walked away from the training with open eyes and an open heart. I was able to see the joyful and loyal person I am. I found my inner beauty and embraced my “flaws.” I’ve fully embraced being me 100% of the time. In the past I would have pushed back those “weird” traits and stifled who I wanted to be so I could mold into who others wanted me to be. Now I can dance in the middle of the store just to put a smile on someone’s face. I can laugh at my own jokes even if no one else does. I also dished out a lot of forgiveness to those that weren’t even sorry for the pain they had caused me. I have self-acceptance and can extend buckets of grace to myself and others. I now accept that it’s okay for people to have faults and fall down sometimes. My passion is my life and those in it. I’m such a people person and social butterfly. I love my little family to my core.

It wasn’t long after my Pathways journey that God led me to the man who would become my husband. Matthew and I had known each other for quite a while, but because of my heart transformation I was now ready to receive and reciprocate the authentic love that he had to offer. Matthew was already a member of the Air Force, and I was so proud to become the wife of an Airman. Perhaps I didn’t fully understand the scope of the sacrifices that would be required, but I was 100% willing to do whatever it took to support my precious husband.

The military wasted no time in training my husband up to serve abroad. We were first stationed in Illinois and then his job took us all the way to Guam, where I gave birth to our first child. Being a mom has been the most incredible experience of my life. Of course it’s very difficult at times, but it’s so rewarding. I made this tiny human that is completely dependent on me. Her world revolves around me. It’s an amazing feeling to be cherished in that way. Currently Matthew is serving overseas on a third deployment, while our daughter and I remain in Texas.

Military life is not for the faint of heart. It’s so tough, because there are a million ups and downs to being in this lifestyle. Exploring new places is a blast. Meeting new people is always rewarding. It’s great being able to live in crazy places like Guam and finding friends you consider family, but there’s always that nag in the back of your head reminding you that one day you’ll have to say “see you later” and you pray and pray and pray that “later” comes. Moving is beyond stressful, and living thousands of miles away from everything you’ve ever known is terrifying. Having a baby with no family around for support is heartbreaking. My husband missing his daughter’s 1st birthday because of a deployment is devastating. It’s tough being the only parent around to witness these special moments, when I know my husband so desperately wishes he was here. Despite all of these challenges, the pride I feel that my husband honored his calling and serves his country outweighs it all. He loves his job and I love him. This is what he signed up to do. I vowed to love him and cherish him and stick by him through everything, and that’s what I intend to do.

I want other veterans and families to know that they’re not alone on the struggle bus. I want them to know that it’s not a sign of weakness to admit you need help. It’s not easy to carry so much weight and stress on your back. I want them to know that there are so many ways to work through the distance and the stress and the heartache. Pathways taught me that it’s okay to ask for help when it’s needed, and that’s been a major tool that I’ve had to embrace. I’ve had to lean on so many people for support and love. Pathways also taught me that the tough times will always pass. I can go through a tough situation and not feel like I’m drowning. This is just a dot. This deployment gets closer to the end every single day. I just have to be open and honest about my feelings, and truly listen when Matthew needs to share the burdens of his experience.

I live in my heart. I speak from my heart. I listen with my heart. It’s the most important thing to me because that’s where all my truths come from. My honesty, my emotions, my courage, my strength to keep going when I want to break down – they all come from my heart. My heart has just expanded and allowed me to truly live and love.