CATLETTSBURG, Ky. -- Finding Dottie McCoy's uncle after 71 years was the biggest part of the struggle.
Now she and her family are dealing with other decisions involving the death of Randolph Allen, who died in one of the bloodiest World War II battles, and the recovery of his body.
Allen, a Rush native and U.S. Marine private first class, had been missing In action since 1943. He was one of about 6,400 killed in the Battle of Tarawa, his remains finally recovered 71 years later.
His name is engraved on the Boyd County War Memorial at Armco Park, but his final resting place will be Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, with his burial ceremony on July 29.
McCoy said the family, which has been heavily invested in recovering Allen's remains, was approached by members of the armed forces upon the discovery and given the option to bury him at home or in Arlington.
McCoy said it was a tough decision, but thought it would be more honorable to have him buried at the famous Virginia military site.
"I hate that he's buried away from his family, but I think it's also a wonderful thing... He'll always have a place of honor at Arlington," she said.
She said Allen was the only brother to his four sisters, including McCoy's mother, Frances Allen Stanley. His other sisters were Willa Tussey, Hester Joe McGranahan, Annette Savage and Katherine Adkins.
He was the son of George and Susan Smith-Allen and grew up in the rural area of Bolts Fork in Rush.
McCoy, her cousin, Joe Tussey, and his wife, Brenda, along with her brother, Roger Dean Stanley, worked hard researching how to find Allen's remains, a process that endured years of thorough investigating, but yielded little results.
McCoy lives in Catlettsburg, and the Tusseys are in Florida, but word spread quickly through the family when the remains were found.
"The armed forces contacted them (the Tusseys) and he's dealt mostly with them because he's the one the government reached out to, but it's a pretty big thing for all of us," she said.
Though she is unable to go to Arlington for the burial, she said the Tusseys will be there.
She said though her uncle died before she was born, she felt as if she knew him because of the stories her mother would share with her as a child. "I watched my mother cry many tears over him," she said.
Although finally finding him has brought Allen's living family members much needed closure, McCoy said her mother needed it more than she did.
"I always wondered what really happened with him, but my mother never had any closure at all," she said. Her mother died in 1973.
Without the proper closure, McCoy and her family were not only haunted with unanswered questions about Allen's disappearance, but she claims even scam artists tried to take advantage of their situation. She said a woman from Florida came to Boyd County seeking out Allen's family members, claiming to be his daughter.
"She tried to make us believe that he was still alive and had a whole other family," she said.
McCoy said they were able to run the woman off, but since they truly did not know what happened to Allen, doubt inevitably crept into their minds.
"It made us wonder if it could possibly be true, but he wouldn't have come home and not told anybody. He was very close to his sisters," she said.
But now she and her family will no longer have to worry about where her uncle is. They look forward to the high honor Allen will receive when he is laid to rest in Arlington next week.