Hero Soldier Gives Life to Winnetka Woman

Army Ranger donates heart to Winnetka woman

When Army Cpl. Benjamin Kopp’s,21, unit was under direct fire from Taliban fighters Kopp stepped in to save the lives of six fellow Rangers. They called him a hero.

Kopp died eight days later from injuries sustained during the firefight, but it didn't stop him from saving lives. 

Kopp’s donated heart helped keep Winnetka resident Judy Meikle, 57, away from death's door.

"It truly is a miracle, isn't it?" Meikle told the Pioneer Press when contacted at a Chicago hospital last Tuesday. "Ben's heart is so strong. My temperature is now normal. ... My pulse, everything is better.”

Kopp’s generous act didn’t surprise friends. They always knew him as self-sacrificing. 

"I know now I will always have someone watching my life," Spc. Chase Vanderhule said at a memorial service for Kopp. He said his old friend would forever be his "ranger in the sky."

Army Ranger Spc. Chase Vanderhule fought alongside Kopp and couldn't help but shed a tear when reflecting upon memories.

"I said I would never have to wear a friend's name on my wrist," Vanderhule told the Pioneer Press, raising his right wrist dramatically to reveal a rubber bracelet. "Well, now I do. My buddy, my friend, my brother ... I'll see you on the other side."

Kopp's mother says her son always put his family and friends above all else and just knowing that part of him is still alive warms her heart. She recalls when she first got the phone call letting her know her son’s heart was being transplanted.

"It stopped me in my tracks, I couldn't walk. I kind of go back there now just thinking about it," Stephenson told CBS 2. "To experience that joy along with my sorrow, that's got to be what a miracle feels like. It's wonderful. It's wonderful."

Contact Us