After witnessing death and tragedy at a young age and turning down a dark path, one young man used the later losses of his two brothers to change his goals for life and join the Marine Corps to become part of a loyal family of thousands.
In 2004, Rct. Jordan McAlexander’s life overturned when the then 11-year-old was caught in the middle of his grandfather’s murder. The assailant, a former neighbor, killed three others before seeing young McAlexander and his grandfather pulling into the driveway.
His grandfather told McAlexander to stay in the vehicle. Yet once a gun was drawn and yelling began, the boy ran inside to alert his grandmother who was on the phone with his mother. Realizing what her distraught grandson was saying, she dialed 911 while McAlexander’s mother called his stepfather, a sheriff’s sergeant, who was nearby.
McAlexander’s stepfather was shot three times before he subdued their attacker. However, by then, McAlexander’s grandfather was dead.
The loss of his grandfather and role model took its toll on McAlexander, who became rebellious and eventually was sent off to a military-style school.
“My mom and stepdad didn’t really mentor me too much,” said McAlexander, 20, from Kernersville, N.C., “Military school helped. It got me some really good friends, but it didn’t teach me the right, straight and narrow way I needed.”
After returning to public school in the eighth grade, the still-unruly McAlexander moved in with his father, an alcoholic.
“My dad didn’t give me any sort of structure,” said McAlexander. “I started getting away from academics and focusing more on dirt bikes and friends.”
In 2011, while visiting a friend out of state, McAlexander routinely called his stepfather to check on his family only to discover a drunk pontoon boat driver ran over his two brothers while they were tubing in a Colorado lake.
His younger brother, Joshua Rowley, 12, died at the lake, while his older brother, Matthew McAlexander, 19, was rushed to the hospital on life support. Jordan McAlexander was able to fly in and speak with his brother before he died two days after the incident.
Losing his older brother, who had been like a father to him, devastated McAlexander.
“He really set me straight and talked to me like a man and told me what was the right thing to do,” said McAlexander. “To know that I was really actually starting to click with my brother and then to lose him so suddenly was really hard on me. I realized [structure] was just what I needed, so I moved back in with my mom after the incident with my brothers.”
McAlexander, who had dropped out of high school his junior year while still living with his father, decided it was time to make mature decisions and take his future more seriously.
“At that time, I wasn’t in school,” said McAlexander. “I can honestly say that losing my brothers inspired me to go back to school and finish and to straighten up and actually inspired me to join the Marine Corps.”
He spent the rest of his high school years catching up and taking extra classes to be able to graduate with his class.
“After they passed away, I wanted to be productive and to make them proud of me,” said McAlexander.
McAlexander decided the right path was standing in front of him.
“My brother always wanted to be a cop,” said McAlexander. “My stepdad is a cop, and I’ve always thought about the military and military school, and before that even … I just wanted to do something that was challenging, so I chose the Marine Corps.”
Though his decision to join the military was obvious to those around him, enlisting in the Marine Corps to be a military policeman had not been in anyone’s sights but his.
“I always knew he was going to join the military,” his mother Lori Rowley said, “but when he decided to go Marines I was like ‘No way! Did you have to pick the hardest route?’ But that’s what he wanted.”
McAlexander is currently training with Platoon 3096, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. By the time he leaves recruit training on Parris Island, S.C., he will have qualified with an M1
6-A4 rifle at 500 yards’ distance, proven his abilities to react quickly and efficiently in stressful situations and understand what it means to be willing to lay his life down for his brothers-in-arms.
“Every day I’m here, I look at pictures of my brothers that my mom sends me,” said McAlexander. “I go to church, and I just hope they’re looking down on me. … I just want this to be something great I can do for myself and to give my family pride in my brothers’ names.”
McAlexander’s mother said after his brothers were killed, he must have realized that it was now up to him to carry on the family name. She said he figured that whatever became of him was a representation of his brothers.
“He would have been the perfect candidate for a kid who got lost in bitterness,” said Rowley. “He could have gone either way, but his inner fortitude, his resolve, his conviction – something inside him – made him turn around and find the will inside of him to make his brothers, his grandfather and himself proud. He was made for this.”
In the Marine Corps, McAlexander said he hopes to gain a lifelong sense of discipline, to be stronger mentally and physically and to gain back the brotherhood he lost.
“I truly believe if my brothers hadn’t saved me from the path I was headed down, I would not be where I am today,” said McAlexander. “Even after they passed away, every aspect of my life changed. I just wanted to be productive, and it led me here.”
McAlexander is scheduled to graduate Dec. 13, 2013.
“Just seeing the look on my parents’ face is going to be the biggest pay off,” said McAlexander. “Especially my mom — the way she has raised me and given me so much support from back home. I just can’t wait to say I did it.”