Mark Van Kopp says his big brother Lieutenant Samuel Van Kopp is a fighter. Van Kopp was wounded in September in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan.
"Obviously he's a big hero of mine," said Mark. "He's recovering faster than anyone would expect, he shopped at Wal-Mart the other day. I got to see him last week, he's his same old self, just a little bit thinner."
Samuel Van Kopp is a graduate of Bakersfield High School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It's the same school his little brother Mark attends and came to downtown Bakersfield on Saturday to speak at Congressman Kevin McCarthy's Academy Forum.
Van Kopp's father Cliff Van Kopp answered questions from parents at the forum who were planning to send their kids to military academy.
"One of the remarks I got from a lot of parents during college prep season was, 'Oh you're so lucky, your son is getting a free college education,'" said Cliff Van Kopp. "Well, that education isn't free, and some kids pay quite a price."
Van Kopp's 24-year-old son paid the price. He still has a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain and is being treated at a rehab facility in Richmond, Virginia.
Now, Cliff Van Kopp says he sends a box to his son every week filled with heartfelt letters from people in Bakersfield.
"His prognosis is very good," he said. "He very much wants to stay in the Army and continue to serve."
Mark Van Kopp says he looks up to his brother and, despite what's happened to him in Afghanistan, he wants to follow in his footsteps.
"When we were really little and people asked 'what do you want to be,' my brother would say 'I want to be a captain in the Army,' and we were just little tikes," Mark Van Kopp says. "I would always say 'I want to be a private,' and my dad would say, 'why do you want to be a private if your brother would be able to give orders to you?' And I'm like 'I’m totally okay with that because he's such an incredible leader.' So when I heard the news, my whole world stopped, but that was his decision to serve his country.”
Cliff Van Kopp says his son is expected to make a full recovery, they just don't know how long it will take.
"He could've died, he could've lost his sight," said Mark Van Kopp. "Eventually, the ball-bearing ended up settling in the best possible place for it to be, so I mean, that's a miracle."