Ben's death had been recorded on paper more than twenty-four hours previously. But in the very late hours of July 19, 2009, Ben finally no longer had a pulse. The heart of a Ranger was still but alive and awaiting its next mission.
When Jill Stephenson received the call that her twenty-one-year-old son, Cpl. Ben Kopp, had been shot in the leg while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, her fear was that he would lose his leg. But soon her fears would be realized in more devastating ways than she ever expected. Due to complications, Ben went into a coma, and eight days later he was pronounced brain dead. Cpl. Ben Kopp, an American hero who was credited with saving the lives of six of his fellow soldiers on the battlefield, was struck down defending his country; he died a Ranger, a warrior, and a patriot. And his heroism would not stop at death.
Through the donating of his organs, bone, skin, and tissue, the mischievous and fun-loving kid from Rosemount, Minnesota went on to save the lives of four Americans and benefitted the lives of more than sixty. After reporting Cpl. Kopp's story, broadcast journalist Bill Lunn couldn't forget it, referring to it as the most compelling story of his career. In Heart of a Ranger, Lunn follows Ben's life from his childhood in the Midwest, to the battlefields of southern Afghanistan, to the chest of his heart donor recipient in Chicago. Through interviews with loved ones, service members, and Ben’s heart recipient, Heart of a Ranger captures the true story of American bravery and sacrifice. In these pages and in reality, the impact of Ben's life beats on.
‘’You can feel the heat, the danger, and the bullets whizzing by like angry bees. . . . You shudder at each wounded Ranger and narrow escape. . . . You know what’s coming next and your eyes mist. Heart of a Ranger masterfully and artfully transitions between all aspects of Ranger Ben Kopp’s life, service, death, and legacy . . . author Bill Lunn leaves no facet out.’’--CSM Jeff Mellinger, US Army Ranger (retired)
‘’Captivating . . . I could not put Heart of a Ranger down until the very last page. This is such a beautiful story of love . . . love between a mother and her only son and love between that son and his brothers in arms. The love of a Ranger’s heart beats on and the love continues in a way no one could imagine.’’--Candy Martin, national president, American Gold Star Mothers Inc., Chief Warrant Officer Five, US Army (retired)
‘’Bill Lunn’s Heart of a Ranger is a beautifully told story about a young hero and the woman he rescued, a woman he never met. A gut-wrenching but utterly inspiring account of hope through unspeakable loss, the book deftly weaves both Ben Kopp’s brutal combat with the Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan and the life of transplant recipient Judy Meikle back in the US. With a reporter’s keen eye for detail, Heart of a Ranger reads with the intensity of a thriller, and I can unequivocally recommend it to all.’’--Mark Greaney, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gunmetal Gray
‘’Beautifully written, an inspiration to all. . . . To read Heart of a Ranger is to feel in a million ways all that is good in humanity.’’ --Susan Gunderson, CEO, LifeSource Organ and Tissue Donation
‘’Heart of a Ranger is a powerful piece that clearly identifies with the most recent generation of warriors. For love of country and family, this book gives you an insight into what it takes to serve as a Ranger, and who the heroes are who sacrifice it all so that we may live in peace.’’--Capt. Florent Groberg (retired), 2015 Medal of Honor Recipient
‘’Bill Lunn beautifully crafted this work of narrative prose in a way that simultaneously captures the essence of who Ben Kopp was and the nature of his chosen profession as a Ranger. Heart of a Ranger is not merely a hero’s story; it’s a testament to the indomitable will of the human spirit.’’--Marty Skovlund, Jr., author of Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror
‘’This is the kind of story that should be required reading in schools around the country. Ben Kopp embodied the kind of values that are the very definition of honor . . . Heart of a Ranger gives us a deep look into what true heroism looks like. . . . A truly important read.’’--Chuck Holton, author, war correspondent and former Army Ranger with Ben Kopp’s unit
‘’Often, the heart of a warrior is passed on from one generation to the next. This book is different. Heart of a Ranger will tell you the incredible true story of how Ben Kopp’s heart gave America freedom and gave one woman a new life.’’ --Major Jeff Struecker, Ranger chaplain (retired)
‘’Read Heart of a Ranger and aspire to live a life worthy of the enduring legacy of this American soldier. Rangers lead the way, and Ben Kopp led the way in life and as he faced death. His Ranger heart beats on and his legacy lives on in all who knew him.’’ --Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army, 2007 - 2009
‘’How a heart can go from the chest of a highly trained special operator on an Afghanistan battlefield into the chest of a woman in Chicago within days is near miraculous. . . . Bill Lunn’s Heart of a Ranger skillfully takes us deep into combat to see how Rangers operate under pressure and inside the operating room to witness a heart transplant. Ben’s remarkable story underscores the power of becoming an organ donor.’’--Bill Frist, U.S. Senator
Bill Lunn is an Emmy Award-winning anchor and reporter for KSTP-TV in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lunn covers military and veterans' issues. His reporting has taken him into Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida for a behind-the-scenes look at how special operators are trained, supplied, and deployed. He embedded with Minnesota Red Bull troops in the Mojave Desert during 2016 training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. He also emceed all major events for the national Medal of Honor Convention in 2016. He is a graduate of St. Mary's University in Minnesota and holds a master's of journalism from Northwestern University. He lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, with his wife and three boys. Heart of a Ranger is his first book.