I was struck emotionally when I read the Sept. 27 news article "Army officer from Bakersfield wounded by suicide bomber." I don't know 1st Lt. Samuel Van Kopp, or his parents, Cliff and Kristi. But I know what kind of people they are. And I know what kind of soldier and leader Samuel is. He is the embodiment of what America and being a soldier and leader is all about. He chose his path. He knew the risks.

The photo in the newspaper of Van Kopp and his "Alpha section and I" speaks volumes about what a leader of a small infantry unit is. Notice the family connection with "his" men -- that is what leading a small unit as a platoon leader or company commander in ground combat is all about.

At 24 years of age, Van Kopp was responsible for the lives of his men -- in combat. There is no higher calling in life than that. He knew that. His men knew that. They loved and respected him for that. Nothing can replace what that means to an infantry soldier and leader. I pray for his recovery, and I want to say to Cliff and Kristi that their son is among America's best!

U.S. Army (retired)