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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
A West Point graduate and Army officer from Bakersfield who was seriously wounded Wednesday in Afghanistan came another step closer to home Friday.
Army officer Samuel Van Kopp, 24, who graduated with honors from Bakersfield High School in 2006, was flown from Germany Friday morning to Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C., according to a news release from David Reese, the principal of Bakersfield High School and a spokesman for the Van Kopp family.
Van Kopp remains in critical but stable condition, Reese said in the release. The young soldier had been in a medically induced coma since Wednesday, however, according to Reese, "doctors lessened the medicine for a couple of hours and Sam was able to respond to a nurse's command and squeeze her finger."
Early Wednesday when details were still sketchy, Samuel's father, Cliff Van Kopp, said he was told by an Army official that a piece of shrapnel had entered Samuel's brain when a suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives near Samuel and other U.S. servicemen.
But Reese included a slight clarification Friday.
"The shrapnel is actually a ball bearing," Reese said, "and they obviously do not want it to move and cause more damage."
It was suggested that Samuel could soon undergo surgery at Walter Reed.
Meanwhile, family members are already headed to the military hospital to be near and support Samuel, including his younger brother, Mark, who followed Samuel to West Point.
"Sam's brother, Mark, has been given permission to leave West Point and travel to Walter Reed," Reese said. "His older brother, Miles, lives in Washington, D.C."
Samuel's parents left Bakersfield Friday afternoon.
"Mr. and Mrs. Van Kopp are overwhelmed," Reese said, "with the outreach and support they have received from the community of Bakersfield."