Army Sgt. Jay T. Stanley, who on Wednesday became the first U.S. soldier injured by rebel fire in El Salvador, was described here by his father as a "responsible and patriotic young man" who strongly believes in the U.S. role in bolstering that country's fragile democracy.

Charles P. Stanley, an assistant state's attorney for the city of Baltimore, said his son often talked about the disparity of income and power in El Salvador that has contributed to that country's civil strife. But Stanley said his son feels that supporting democratic institutions is the best way to bring change.

"They had a free and democratic election there a couple of years ago and some people want to destroy that," said the elder Stanley. "He Jay feels the election was a good one and should be held up.

"He expressed to me concern at the unfortunate condition of the economy because of the way land is distributed. He thinks about these things. He is not just a follower. He is not abiding to any blind obedience."

Stanley, 26, was described by an Army spokesman in Washington yesterday as being in good condition. The spokesman said Stanley's injury was a flesh wound in the upper left leg and the sergeant should be back on his feet in about two weeks.

Stanley, a Green Beret with the Army's special forces, was wounded when the helicopter in which he was riding was fired on about 10 miles from Berlin, a town that government troops recaptured from the rebels in fighting Thursday. Stanley is one of 37 U.S. military advisers now in El Salvador. The United States has been supplying advisers to help government troops combat a leftist insurgency since 1981.

Stanley's father said that the young sergeant joined the Army in 1977, after graduating from Towson High School in suburban Baltimore and serving for a time in the National Guard Special Forces. Charles Stanley, who served in the U.S. Army in West Germany in the early 1950s and still serves in the National Guard, said he thinks that he may have influenced his son's decision to pursue a military career.

The elder Stanley said he did not think that Wednesday's incident would deter his son's sense of duty or shake his resolve.

"He accepts what he thinks he has to do, and he does it," Stanley said. "I would like to think nothing else will happen to him down there. I would say the chances are, he'll want to stay, but I don't know, since I've never seen combat."