Service and sacrifice.
Those are noble concepts often associated with Veterans Day and those who serve in the military.
Service and sacrifice are quite familiar to Roy David McCoy, a former Stephenville resident who received a Purple Heart after being severely injured by a booby trap while serving in Vietnam.
McCoy, 75, signed up with the Marines in 1964. In January 1966 while on reconnaissance (scouting) patrol with eight other Marines in the Quang Tri Provence south of the DMZ, an explosive device was tripped, wounding five of the nine men.
One of the injured had wounds above the waist and died because the bleeding could not be stopped with a tourniquet.
McCoy’s body absorbed 200 wounds from shrapnel. His right leg had to be removed about four years after the incident, and he still uses a prosthesis. Part of his left leg was saved, and doctors successfully pieced it back together using a cadaver bone.
The fact that he survived at all was nothing less than amazing.
“We didn’t think he would, but luckily he did,” said his sister, Stephenville resident Jerree Herrington, who recalled that he had to have 27 surgeries over a period of seven years.
Not only did McCoy receive a Purple Heart, he also earned a Navy Commendation Medal with a V for valor under combat conditions for saving a wounded fellow Marine from the line of fire.
A newspaper report at that time stated, “When McCoy and his company came under intense Viet Cong fire, McCoy saw a wounded Marine lying forward of a mud bank where he and his company had taken cover. Exposing himself to the heavy gunfire, he moved into the open rice paddy, picked up the wounded man, and carried him to the mud bank.”
That happened in December 1965 during Operation Harvest Moon, about a month before McCoy suffered his major injury.
“I didn’t get a scratch that day,” said McCoy, who in 2015 moved to Pecan Plantation near Granbury, where his son, Brent McCoy resides. Brent has served as a Grand Prairie police officer for almost 20 years.
“I just feel like he’s more than a hero,” said Herrington, who earned a degree in counseling and worked for 25 years at Foster’s Home in Stephenville before working for Harris Methodist Hospital. “He’s a good man in all aspects, and so it’s easy to consider him a hero.
“I think it took an extra special person to survive all he did. I never saw the negative side of him. He seemed to always stay positive. I have a lot of respect for him because of the man he is now, and the things he’s done for others.”
Herrington’s husband, Larry Herrington, was also a Vietnam veteran.
McCoy, who can walk and even manages to play golf despite his situation, said he has lived a full life and really does not have any regrets.
“I never allowed myself to get bitter about it,” McCoy said, mentioning the adage, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
“I was proud of my service,” he added. “I was always raised to do what I thought was right for my country. We felt like we were doing the right thing.”
McCoy, whose wife Charlotte died in 2014, was put on the temporary disabled retired list first. He was hospitalized for 22 months in the hospital at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, and eventually retired from the Marines in 1972 with a rank of Sergeant E5.
He got a degree in business management that same year from Texas A&M University. He owned a restaurant in Stephenville for four years, then worked for TXU Electric at the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant for 18 years. McCoy moved to Round Rock and worked for Austin-based ERCOT for 15 years before retiring from the business world in 2011.
McCoy grew to love golf, and in 1980 became the founder of an event that gives amputees a chance to get out and enjoy a physical activity they might not otherwise do. It’s called the Southwest Amputee Golf Association, which sets up tournaments mostly in Texas, but also in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
McCoy is a past president of the association, and now serves as secretary-treasurer. Details about the tournament and the next planned event can be found online (www.amputeegolf1.com). The nonprofit association can pay the fees of those who can’t afford it.
Participating in a golf tournament can help amputees in many aspects of life, extending into their efforts to find a suitable work situation. But for starters, they can learn the answer to the question, “How do you swing without falling down?” McCoy said.
“It’s just a bunch of guys with the same challenges,” McCoy said, noting that the most recent tournament was in mid-October in Brownwood. “Life goes on. You can compete, and occasionally you can win. That changes people’s attitudes 180 degrees.”
The event is not exclusively for amputees who served in the military. There is a separate division in the tournament for those with mobility handicaps.
McCoy usually tries to attend the reunions held for members of his old Marine unit — Fox Company, Second Battalion — in connection with Veterans Day. This year, health woes kept him from attending the one being held in New Orleans.
“Every other year it’s in Washington, D.C.,” McCoy said. “We get together and observe the day and days gone by. You can talk to those guys, and they understand what you’re saying. I’ve been to pretty much all of them since the organization formed about 15 years ago.”