A Chicago woman has Ben Kopp's heart.
Kopp was a 22-year-old Army Ranger from Minnesota who died from injuries he received while fighting in Afghanistan. His donated organs eventually helped 72 people, including the Chicago woman who got his heart. Kopp's friends sometimes travel to meet her and to touch her chest to feel their fallen friend's beating heart.
It's those kind of stories that make up a 2011 Minnesota Fallen Heroes Calendar, featuring the narratives of Minnesota natives who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is the second edition of the calendar, the brainchild of a St. Paul mother, Patricia Boyd. After church, Boyd would frequently go to Fort Snelling to visit the grave of Tom Burnett, the Bloomington native who was one of those credited with fighting back on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11. After a while she noticed the graves of newly fallen troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. She began talking to family members who showed up, particularly the mothers.
"The one thing that I remembered is that the mothers always worried that their sons would be forgotten and I thought it would be a way to remember them, they'd be remembered 365 days of the year," she said.
The idea ultimately turned into a calendar. Each month features a fallen Minnesotan, with pictures and a life story provided by family members. The 2010 edition sold more than 3,000 copies. The 2011 editions are on sale now for $10 through the Bryan McDonough Military Heroes Foundation at www.military heroesfoundation.org.
Money raised will go toward a $2 million pledge for the construction of the Fisher House at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center. Fisher houses provide housing for the families of members of the military recuperating from injuries. When it was started, the Minnesota calendar project was the only one of its kind in the country. Others have since popped up. The Minnesota effort will continue to put a light on those who have died.