In 2009 I read a blog post by war correspondent Michael Yon, where he wrote of the Kopp-Etchells effect. It particularly stuck in my mind because I remember as a young soldier riding in a Blackhawk helicopter at night being stuck by the beauty of the rotorblades, sparkling with electricity as we flew. It was like flying under a halo. Yon named the effect in honor of Ranger Ben Kopp and a young British soldier that had recently died in combat.
About the same time I became aware of the issues facing veterans – I saw a news clip where the Secretary of the VA said 18 veterans took their own lives every day. That demanded action, and GallantFew was born.
Sometime after that, and I don’t remember exactly who or when, but someone introduced me to Jill Stephenson. Jill is Ben Kopps’ mother and the more I learned about Jill and her son, the more impressed and amazed I became.
Ben served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion, and on a deployment a bullet struck his knee. I’ve read that he saved the lives of six Rangers during the battle. He later died of complications from the injury while in surgery.
Normally the story would end there, but in this case it’s really just beginning.
Ben had become an organ donor. Immediately his organs were removed and sent on their way to help others. This wonderful article The Heart of a Hero Beats On tells about the woman who received Ben’s heart. Ben’s liver and kidneys went to a man in Washington. Ben’s organs saved or enhanced the lives of sixty people.
Yet the story goes on.
This morning I caught a brief clip on the news, then saw the article posted on Facebook – Jill spoke to a group of Cub Scouts, and one of the young men was so taken that he subsequently wrote a hero story for a class assignment, selecting Ben Kopp as his hero. You need to watch this news report.
Every summer now is the Ben Kopp Memorial Ride. Generations yet unborn will benefit from the life and death of Ben Kopp.
Every time I visit Arlington National Cemetery I stop by Ben’s resting place. He is a continuous reminder that Rangers Lead the Way.
If you are a Ranger getting ready to or already going through transition from active duty, reach out – this network of Ranger veterans is standing by to assist. Don’t walk your transition patrol alone.
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