RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond is known as the city of monuments. These days the landscape of statues is expanding. A new bronze memorial at Fourth and Jackson doesn’t honor athletes, generals or dancers.
Jill Stephenson feels an especially deep connection to the nearly seven-foot kneeling soldier.
“This one comes from the heart. And it means the heart to everyone,” said Stephenson, who lives in Maryland. “The hands were very inviting to me and it felt personal to me. It was reaching out and asking me to touch it.”
Four years in the making, the Fallen Soldier Donor Memorial is dedicated to sacrifices made well beyond the battlefield. Jill Stephenson’s son, Ben Kopp, a U.S. Army Ranger, was wounded in Afghanistan in July of 2009.
“He saved six of his fellow snipers. His sniper team was being pinned down by Taliban snipers,” Stephenson said.
Eight days later her only child would succumb to his injuries at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland, but Kopp’s spirit lives on since the 20-year-old was listed as an organ donor.
Lisa Schaffner with the United Network for Organ Donation or UNOS says Ben’s organs, tissue and bones saved and enhanced the lives of sixty strangers.
“Ben Kopp's sacrifice that last courageous gift helped others live,” Schaffner said. “And that enhances the lives of so many people and that is what Ben did and that is what so many of our military members have done and their last courageous act of service.”
Norris McMiller knows first-hand the importance of organ donation.
“The heart I have beating inside me right now comes from an army soldier. An army veteran like myself,” McMiller said.
McMiller said the new statue is a testament to the sacrifice of Jill’s son, Ben, and other military men and women.
“He has affected people’s lives in a positive way even in his death,” said McMiller. “I would like to say your son is a hero. In life and in death he is still a hero.”
Stephenson still mourns her son’s loss, but seven years later finds comfort knowing her son served nobly on the battlefield and beyond.
“I was astounded by what I saw and was rendered speechless,” Stephenson said. “This is almost as Christ-centered as can be and that speaks to my heart. Here. This is what I have. And they did this twice.”
Click here to learn more about the memorial or organ donation.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.