ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – Army Ranger Benjamin Kopp died last month after being wounded in Afghanistan, but a part of the Minnesota soldier lives on.
His family agreed to donate his organs, and now a 57-year-old Chicago woman feels privileged to have received the Rosemount soldier's heart.
Judy Meikle says she got a call about Kopp's death two weeks ago from the soldier's cousin, who's her close friend. His heart was a perfect match for Meikle.
She says she now has the heart of an Army Ranger who's a bona fide hero.
"How can you have a better heart?" Judy Meikle, 57, of Winnetka, Ill., who is still recovering from the surgery, told The Washington Post. "I have the heart of a 21-year-old Army Ranger war hero beating in me."
Kopp was shot in the leg during a battle in Afghanistan. He was initially flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and later to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.
The doctors at Walter Reed raised the issue of organ donation with Kopp's mother, Jill Stephenson of Rosemount, Minn. Stephenson said she wanted to uphold the wishes of her son, who had indicated on his driver's license and in his living will that he wanted to be an organ donor.
Doctors removed his heart, kidneys, pancreas and liver for transplant.
"It helps my sorrow; it eases my pain. It really does," Stephenson told The Washington Post. "I know that Ben wanted to help save lives . . . and it really prolongs Ben's life and honors his memory so much and honors me in that we could save other lives."
Kopp served two tours in Iraq before his tour in Afghanistan as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based in Fort Benning, Ga. The 21-year-old died July 18.
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The Associated Press contributed to this story.