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Marine heart transplant recipient meets with family of donor

March 21, 2008 4:41:02 PM PDT
A Rockford heart transplant patient has learned that his life was saved by a fellow Marine.Ricky Martinez, 22, was shot and killed after leaving a Cubs game in Chicago almost two years ago. His father spoke out Friday about the decision to turn their loss into a life-saving gift for another Marine.

Ricky Martinez will be honored at a special ceremony Saturday by veterans groups who will be remembering not only his service in Iraq, but also the gift he made after his death: his heart. The recipient of that gift, Brian Troy, will be there.

Ricky Martinez's picture is always with his father on the tag he wears around his neck. Ricardo Martinez, Sr. can barely talk about the death of his son two years later without choking up. That is why he wanted badly to talk with the person who carries his son's donated heart.

"We hoped to meet the person who had his heart because that person has a big heart," Ricardo Martinez Sr. told ABC7 Chicago.

Ricardo Jr. had been through a lot and had so much more ahead when he died. A Marine for four years, he had spent two years in Iraq before getting out and returning to Chicago. While he survived war, he did not survive a stray bullet fired allegedly by a 22-year-old convicted murderer after leaving a Cubs game. Martinez battled in the hospital for five days before he died.

The next day 43-year-old Brian Troy of Rockford received the heart.

"Today, is the day I've been dreaming of," Troy said.

Troy, coincidently, also is a former Marine. He, too, wears Martinez's picture around his neck.

"By knowing he was honoring our son so much, it was a happy feeling for us," Ricardo Martinez Sr. said. "And it was the best thing that could happen to you. I mean, not that anything good could happen after you lose your son, but it was something that gave us a little bit of hope."

Martinez and Troy met last month in Rockford and will meet again over the weekend when several veterans groups honor Ricky Jr. in Chicago.

"His son is crying out, letting them know he's still with them," said community activist Andrew Holmes, who organized the event.

"I always feel that's why I don't dream about my son-- he's still alive," Ricardo Martinez Sr. said.

Prosecutors have charged 22-year-old Steven Bryant with the murder of Ricky Martinez. They say he fired a 45-caliber handgun from the street during an argument with friends of Martinez.

Bryant is due back in court in April, but there is no date scheduled yet for his trial.


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