Army officer from Bakersfield wounded by suicide bomber

Lt. Samuel Van Kopp in coma

Afghanistan - A troop from Bakersfield was critically wounded in a suicide bomb attack while on Army patrol in Afghanistan early Wednesday.

Lt. Samuel Van Kopp, 24, a 2006 honors graduate of Bakersfield High School who went on to the United States Military Academy at West Point, was struck by shrapnel when a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives detonated the device.

A piece of shrapnel is in his brain, the grieving father said, his voice breaking with worry and emotion. He is in a coma and on a ventilator at Bagram Air Base hospital.

Samuel is expected to be flown to an Army hospital in Germany, but Mr. Van Kopp and his wife, Kristi, were not sure when that transfer would take place.

Understandably, they were sure of very little Wednesday.

BHS Principal David Reese said all staff at the school were informed of the situation Wednesday morning. Many, he said, are close to Samuel, who he described as an excellent student, the kind of young man teachers remember for the rest of their lives.

Sam graduated 10th in his class with a 4.3 grade point average. The highest a student can get is 4.5, he said. He was in ROTC all four years, was involved in academic decathlon, forensics - he could have gone anywhere, but he chose to go to West Point.


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