Bakersfield's 'best and brightest' wounded in Afghanistan

Bakersfield's 'best and brightest' wounded in Afghanistan »Play Video
Sam Van Kopp is seen in an undated photo provided by former classmate and Eyewitness News employee Walter Suazo.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — An Army officer from Bakersfield was critically wounded Wednesday by an explosion in Afghanistan.

Samuel Van Kopp, 24, was on patrol when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-ladened vest. Shrapnel hit Van Kopp in the head, according to his former high school principal David Reese.

Van Kopp is a Bakersfield High School graduate who went on the West Point. Former BHS classmate and Eyewitness News employee Walter Suazo said Van Kopp is a first lieutenant.

"The heart of the Driller Nation goes out to the Van Kopp family," BHS principal Reese said. "All three Van Kopp boys – Miles, Samuel and Mark – went through BHS."

Friend Danielle Elliott said Samuel Van Kopp had been stationed in Germany, so she guessed he recently deployed to Afghanistan.

"He's one of the best and brightest," Elliott said. "He has the highest integrity of any person I know."

Mark Van Kopp followed his big brother's path to the United States Military Academy.