View Full Version : "I have the heart of a 21-year-old Army Ranger war hero beating in me."

Play The Man
08-10-2009, 05:08 AM


Cpl. Benjamin Kopp gave his life. And then he saved one.

An Army Ranger who had been on his third tour of duty, Kopp was buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. Sadly, it's a familiar story: a young man dead before his time, shot by enemies on the other side of the world.

But this time, there was a renewed life too. Kopp wanted to be an organ donor.

And after he died, his heart was transplanted into a family member's friend who had a rare form of congenital heart disease.

"How can you have a better heart?" said a grateful Judy Meikle, 57, of Winnetka, Ill., who is still recovering from the surgery. "I have the heart of a 21-year-old Army Ranger war hero beating in me."

Kopp's mother, Jill Stephenson, of Rosemount, Minn., said that in addition to her son's heart, doctors removed his kidneys, pancreas and liver for transplant.

Kopp had served two tours of duty in Iraq when he left this spring for Afghanistan. On July 10, his unit attacked a Taliban haven in Helmand province, according to the 75th Ranger Regiment. The fight lasted several hours, resulting in the deaths of more than 10 Taliban fighters, but Kopp was shot in the leg.

He was eventually transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"Initially, it was really comforting to have him be there" on U.S. soil, Stephenson said. "And then it was tough to see him in that condition. . . . He looked like a big, strong guy. But he was full of tubes and cords and wires."

On July 18, Stephenson posted an online journal entry telling family and friends about Kopp's passing and said they would donate his organs.

Maria Burud, Stephenson's first cousin in Chicago, had been following Kopp's condition on the website. What occurred next was happenstance.

Burud and Meikle are friends who had worked together in the 1980s. Burud knew that Meikle needed a heart transplant, and Stephenson happened to see her cousin's message in time.

Meikle knew it might not work out, that Kopp's heart might not be a match.

"It's a million-to-one shot," she said.

It had taken her seven months to get on the eligibility list because she needed to build up a tolerance for heparin, a drug used to prevent blood clots during heart surgery.

But she got a call later that day from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

In the early hours of July 20 two days after Kopp died Meikle had her transplant surgery at Northwestern.

RIP Cpl. Benjamin Kopp. Thank you and your family for your incredible sacrifice.

08-10-2009, 05:51 AM
Very cool and fortunately many many people do this :)

08-10-2009, 10:08 PM
A Hero several times over!

08-10-2009, 10:10 PM
Beautiful story, thanks for sharing!