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Proposed bridge name would honor fallen Rosemount soldier

Rosemount High School graduate Benjamin Kopp gave his life in the line of duty while serving in Afghanistan in 2009. A bill has been introduced in the House and Senate to name a bridge in Coates in his honor. (Submitted Photo)

On Feb. 2, Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL — Apple Valley) introduced a bill to designate the bridge over U.S. Highway 52 in the city of Coates as Corporal Benjamin S. Kopp Bridge. Kopp, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, was a student at Rosemount High School when Clausen served as principal there.

Clausen said he wants people who cross the bridge to be reminded of the sacrifice Kopp made.

"I think it's important to remember the sacrifice of Ben for the country, and this would be a way to remind people who drive through that area that Ben gave his life for us," Clausen said.

The bill was coauthored by Rep. Anna Wills in the House.

"Pursuing this legislation on behalf of a local fallen hero is one of the sobering and meaningful aspects of being a legislator," Wills said. "It is humbling to be able to work on this on behalf of Ben Kopp to honor his life and sacrifice here in our community."

The bill, SF 589, has been referred to the Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. Clausen said he hopes it will reach the floor of the Senate and the House, preferably as a standalone bill, and be voted on this spring.

Kopp's mother, Jill Stephenson, said she knows many people who grew up with her son still travel in that area, so to have the community honor him is very special to her.

"Ben was born and raised in Minnesota, and Rosemount is where Ben's roots are. It really touches my heart to have something in the community named in his honor," she said. "His heart really belonged to Rosemount ... Ben really truly was everybody's best friend."

Stephenson said she found out about the nonprofit Bridges for the Fallen through a mutual friend of the organization's founder. The all-volunteer organization accepts requests from Gold Star family members to memorialize bridges in their loved ones' honor.

Kopp died July 18, 2009, of trauma caused by gunshot wounds he received during a firefight with the Taliban eight days prior, while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. He saved six of his fellow Rangers on the battlefield before being shot in the leg by a sniper. After his death, he saved or enhanced the lives of 60 more people through the donation of his organs, skin, tissue and bone.

Kopp was a 2006 graduate of Rosemount High School, where he was a member of the football team all four years. His mother plans to release a biography of his life in mid-May.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Rep. Anna Wills is a coauthor of the legislation. A sentence that incorrectly stated that the bridge in question was being torn down and replaced has been deleted. The sentence incorrectly referenced an upcoming project on County Road 42.