MARSHALL – Joe McCoy, 64, was the quintessential brother. According to his sister, Melinda Gaulden of Marshall, he was the best brother.
Which is a big part of the reason that Melinda has gone to great lengths to make sure her brother’s memory lives on in the most non-traditional way.
Her brother passed away October 22, 2015 after a battle with cancer. The Vietnam veteran’s ashes are being carried to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington as part of the Patriot Rider’s annual ‘Run for the Wall’ event.
The ‘Run for the Wall’ event was implemented in 1989 by Vietnam Veterans James Gregory and Bill Evans. They traveled across America on motorcycles giving presentations to media outlets on behalf of the thousands of men and women who are still unaccounted for from all wars.
According to Melinda, during a special service in Washington on May 27, the rider who has ‘custody’ of her brother’s ashes will spread Joe’s ashes at the Wall, along with others. The ride begins May 18 from California. To follow the ride, visit the site at http://rftw-sr.org/sitreps/index.html. To be able to participate in the event, an application had to be filled out. A Patriot Rider is chosen to take custody of a veteran’s ashes. “As they stop along the way on the journey, they share a photograph of the late veteran, and a story with those who are with them,” Melinda said.
The rider who has custody of McCoy’s ashes is from Palestine, Texas. Gaulden had the opportunity to meet him when she gave him the bag with Joe’s ashes, he put the bag in his vest, and said that is where they would stay. Melinda also gave him a necklace with Joe’s ashes. “I really would like for this to go where you go and come back to us.” The Patriot Rider gladly put the necklace on.
When asked what the alternative plan was in case he got sick or couldn’t ride, the Patriot Rider told Melinda there was an back-up rider already in place.
Her brother would have participated or supported the ‘Run for the Wall,’ Melinda explained. Joe McCoy was just that kind of guy. “He was a rough, gruff kind of guy on the outside, but on the inside he was a powder puff.”
When she found out her brother had been diagnosed with cancer last May, Melinda went to see him. Joe had decided against chemotherapy. She thought she could talk her brother into treatments. After a few minutes of tense conversation, Joe told her, “They have already told me I had six months to live … The chemo might add two more months to my life, but I am not going to die while I am living.”
The idea was to try surgery to remove the cancer from his lung. When the doctors went in, they saw the cancer had spread to his chest. They closed him up and said there was nothing more they could do. “My brother checked himself out of the hospital that day, against medical advice. He said he was not going to bed and he was going to go out and do things,” Melinda said.
Do things he did. He and his wife, Jana, went on trips, including one where they met Melinda, and her husband, Richard, in Las Vegas.
Not long after, Joe began having seizure activity, and soon began on full-fledged hospice care. Melinda spent two weeks with him, and finally, Joe told her it was time to go home. At the airport, Melinda had a hard time getting on the airplane. Her brother encouraged her to go home.
A few days later, Joe called her, and told Melinda to make arrangements for he and his wife to come to Texas. Once all the arrangements were made, medically and for travel, she called him to find out if the days were OK. Joe told her very quietly, “Make them one way tickets.”
It was then that Melinda realized her brother wouldn’t be going home. Their time together in Texas was great with visits to the Fireant Festival and local restaurants. That was in October 2015.
Joe got weaker, and not long after died with his sister, wife and family close by at the Gaulden home.
Thinking about Patriot Rider’s ‘Run for the Wall’ and the fact that Joe’s ashes would be in such an esteemed place among other honorable veterans, Melinda smiled.
“Joe would have loved this. Whenever he liked something or saw something was going to work out, he would say, ‘There it is,’” she said.
On Sunday, May 22, the Patriot Riders will be traveling on I-20 coming through Marshall from Longview. Citizens are encouraged to keep an eye-out, especially at some of the less busy and smaller overpasses.
“There will be a larger crowd of motorcycle riders first, then the riders with custody of soldiers’ ashes,” she said.
It will be a chance for Melinda to say hello and good-bye to her brother one more time.
And an opportunity for others to view something so peaceful, honorable and truly, patriotic.
Riders are expected to come through sometime between 12:30 and 1:30 on Sunday, May 22.