A Gold Star mother has embarked on a 100-mile Memorial Day weekend walk to honor the lives of those lost while serving and protecting our country.
Jill Stephenson, who lost her son Benjamin Copp in 2009, left her Glencoe home on Friday morning and is heading for Marseilles. Stephenson is carrying her son’s backpack, and is prepared for a long journey to her ultimate destination.
“He’s very present. He has a very strong spirit,” she said. “It feels like it was yesterday, and it’s hard to believe it’s been almost nine years, but his spirit has never stopped living through me.”
Kopp, a member of the Army Rangers, was shot and killed in Afghanistan in 2009.
Now, Stephenson is being joined by military veterans, families, and local leaders on her journey, which she expects will be completed by 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
“I normally spend Memorial Day weekend at Arlington National Cemetery, but this year I felt called to do something different,” she said. “I want to do everything I can until I see him again to honor his life and his sacrifice.”
Stephenson prepared for her journey by hiking the dunes along Lake Michigan in Indiana, and she feels a high calling to do what she is doing this weekend.
“I’m looking to raise awareness and to remind Americans why we are free,” she said. “I want people to be aware of the Middle East conflict wall in Marseilles. I think a lot of people don’t know it’s there.”
The memorial wall, constructed in Marseilles in 2004, honors those who have lost their lives in Middle East conflicts since 1967.