What might the country learn from her, a member of the 9/11 generation that has come of age with the nation fighting two wars?
She smiles and shows off a gold ring with a small emerald, her birthstone. Her father purchased some emeralds on one of his first deployments and had the ring made for her mother. Alison's mom gave it to her on the last Christmas that both of her parents were still alive.
"That's definitely my most prized possession," she says, "because I feel it's part of both of them."
Her mother and father had divorced by then. Her father married a fellow CIA officer, Shannon Joy, in early 2001. Alison and her sister moved in with the newlyweds in Virginia, not far from CIA headquarters. Her mother was sick, fighting ovarian cancer, and also living in Virginia.
Alison chooses to remember happier moments, when her parents were together.
The two met at a party Mike threw at his parents' home in Winfield, Alabama. It was one of those parties kids have when Mom and Dad leave town. Kathryn Ann was a high school senior living in a neighboring town; he was a handsome young college student at Auburn University. A romance was born.
Soon, Kathryn Ann was driving her clunker of a pickup the three hours to Auburn University to see her new beau. Alison's father was reserved, with a dry sense of humor; her mother was his loud, outgoing alter ego -- as Alison puts it, "the whiskey to his Coca-Cola."
They wed and lived the military life on the move: Okinawa, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia.
At one stop, their cul-de-sac was nicknamed Sesame Street because so many children played in the road. One summer night, as the kids raced around in a game of tag, her father broke from his tough-guy persona. He chased after them and pretended he couldn't catch them. Her mother joined in.
"I caught myself looking back on that day a lot more often" after they died, she says. "That was one of the best memories of the two of them."
In a favorite photo, her father sports a tight military buzz cut and holds Alison in his arms. She drapes her arm around his neck as he kisses her. Daddy's little girl.
"You have so many different steps in life. You go to college, you go on your first date, you go to prom," she says. "Just things like that growing up are little reminders every day that my parents will never be here to do these things with me."
The final conversation
After Alison finished third grade in 2001, her father took her to an International House of Pancakes in Virginia to celebrate. A few months later, shortly after 9/11, he brought Alison and her siblings to the same restaurant. By then, she'd had time to adjust to the new living arrangements and the birth of her brother.
But this time, the mood at the IHOP was anything but celebratory.
Mike told his children he would soon deploy to Afghanistan. Alison had watched on television as the attacks of September 11, 2001, unfolded. Now her father was heading to the country that harbored the terrorists.
She couldn't understand why he would want to go.
In order for the terrorists not to ever come back here, he told her, we have to take the fight over there. She begged him not to leave.
It would be the last significant talk they ever had.
"The only thing I heard from that conversation," she says, "was that my dad was leaving and that he was going to a bad place. I was just crying and crying."