CHICAGO (CBS) — Every year, Memorial Day honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
This year, a local Gold Star mom wanted to remember and honor her son in a very special way.
CBS 2’s Audrina Bigos caught up with Jill Stephenson along her journey across Chicagoland.
“We have a mission to complete,” said Stephenson. “Military families just keep going. They don’t stop.”
Stephenson is on a mission to walk 105 miles in memory of her son, as well as others that lost their lives in the line of duty.
Many people walked with her, bearing stars and stripes followed by faces of the fallen.
“It is nothing compared to what they did for us,” said Stephenson.
Jill Stephenson knows first hand.
“The real reason I’m here is to honor my son.”
Corporal Benjamin Kopp was a U.S. Army Ranger.
“The front of my shirt is an exact replica of the tattoo my son had on his chest. It says ‘Freedom isn’t free’ in Greek,” Stephenson explained.
Stephenson says her son, Benjamin, was 21 years old and on his third deployment in Afghanistan when he died serving our country in 2009.
“He was shot by a sniper,” said Stephenson. “He survived his injuries long enough to make it back to Walter Reid where he was removed from life support eight days later.”
On this Memorial Day, Stephenson says she’s determined to walk 105 miles.
“I felt called to do something different. This was the something different. I just walked 19.8 miles to honor my son.”
She says she walked seven hours on the pavement from north suburban Glencoe to Lincoln Park, a total of 50,210 steps.
Hundreds of others stopped in Lincoln Park, but Jill Stephenson says she and her supporters will continue to the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in Marseilles, Illinois.
Her son’s name is among many other American heroes.
“We do it to honor them,” Stephenson said.
With 80 more miles to go, she says she’s getting all of her strength from a simple prayer this morning.
“I wanted them to walk with me and walk beside me and keep me going and they did,” she said through tears.
The trek is more than 100 miles, which is broken up into a few groups who are out there supporting Jill in her freedom walk to the wall.