BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A planned homecoming for local wounded warrior Samuel Van Kopp was put on hold Monday night when the Army 1st Lieutenant missed his connecting flight in Phoenix.
According to an email from his dad, Cliff Van Kopp, the plane carrying Sam and his mother, Kristi, was delayed in taking off from the Washington, D.C. area, which forced the mother and son to miss their connecting flight departing from Phoenix to Bakersfield.
But according to organizers of the event, the homecoming will happen at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Meadows Field airport.
Apparently, word must have gotten out to most planning to come. However, a few well-wishers did show up Monday night to support Samuel and the Van Kopp family, not knowing of the delay.
"We have twin boys who both served with the Marines," said Diana Moon, who was at the Thomas Terminal looking for the expected crowd with her husband, Ron Moon.
"We feel it's something we need to do to support these young men and women," Mrs. Moon said. "We were fortunate that both our boys came home uninjured. I can't imaging what Sam's parents must have been going through."
Van Kopp, a Bakersfield High School and West Point graduate who was deployed to Afghanistan earlier this year, was leading his platoon when the men came under attack Sept. 26.
In the midst of the chaos, an old man wearing a suicide bomb hidden beneath his clothes approached the men, Sam told The Californian. The bomb exploded sending a single ball bearing through Sam's skull and into his brain.
"It's lodged in a place where it doesn't seem to be doing much harm, and the neurosurgeons have decided to leave it in place," Sam said.
Almost miraculously, the 25-year-old has shown great improvement, so much so that he was granted a 30-day leave for Walter Reed hospital to enjoy some time at home for the holidays.
Laurie Grider, a teacher at Owens Intermediate School where Sam attended, was also at the airport Monday night.
Like Ron and Diana Moon -- and countless others in Kern County -- she just wanted to show her love and support for Sam and his family.
Anyone who's lived in Kern County for any length of time won't be surprised by the depth of support. It's just how Bakersfield rolls.