The community this week is mourning the death of U.S. Army Private First Class Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, who was assigned to the 510th Engineer Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, in Fort Hood, Texas.
Kham See was killed during the horrific shooting that took place the early afternoon of November 5th at Fort Hood. As a family and community ready to bury a young husband and father of three, they struggle to understand what possessed Nidal Hasan, the man charged with taking Kham See’s life along with 12 others, and wounding 31 other military and civilian personnel.
Governor Tim Pawlenty ordered U.S. and State flags flown at half-staff on Nov. 7, in honor and remembrance of Kham See and the others killed and wounded at Fort Hood.
The Governor’s official proclamation stated that this worst mass shooting to ever occur on a United States Military base strikes deep in a state that values and respects military service.
Chayee Lee, brother in law, and the family representative and spokesperson, is married to Kham See’s younger sister, and says she and the nine other siblings are obviously very upset and in denial about their elder brother’s death, the eldest son and third oldest in the family.
Lee said the family was in a sense prepared to handle news that Kham or his younger brother serving in the Marines had been wounded or lost while serving on hazardous duty. They were totally unprepared for Kham See’s murder at the hands of a U.S. military officer and in the relative safety of a stateside duty station while in a processing center.
Lee said the family does not mind the media attention but just want to get across “what a great son he was; what a great uncle and cousin, sibling, husband and father.” He said that several of Kham See’s friends from high school and Basic Training and Fort Hood have contacted the family for support and many plan to attend funeral as well.
“He was loved by everybody and he always had a great smile on him,” said Lee. “He could change people moods from sad to happy instantly. He was happy and warm.”
The last job Lee recalled that Kham held before enlisting was a forklift driver. When he wasn’t working, Lee said Kham would always want to go fishing. He went to Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and although he was schooled as a combat engineer, Lee said he was switching over to heavy artillery.
Kham See’s spouse Shoua was due to return to Minnesota on Thursday. Lee said the Army assigned a liaison to both the family in St. Paul and to Shoua in Texas. The two reportedly were in constant communication with each other regarding the memorial service and have been very supportive to the family.
Another brother in-law, Tria Chang, said Kham See moved his family to Fort Hood last July, and worries for the children. The eldest will need to understand that their father is gone. The youngest will not have any memory of their father, he added.
“They were a close family,” said Chang. “There was a lot of love. They did everything together.
“He saw the military as a way to provide for his family,” he added. “His parents aren’t rich and he comes from a poor background.”
Chang said that Shoua’s four sisters flew immediately to Texas to help care for the kids and support her. The military paid for one airfare and the other three paid their own way.
He said Kham See’s parents are now working to help Shoua and her family in this difficult transition, to find out her wishes and return together to Minnesota.
The parents also want to know the details of what happed to their son, he added. The family values military service, he said, and now worry for their other son learned of Kham See’s death on the phone with them while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. He reportedly fainted and a fellow Marine came on the line to say that they were taking him to medical.
Song Tou Xiong, vice-president of Xiong United of Minnesota, assisted the family with coordinating funeral arrangements and acting as a liaison where possible.
“This is very sad,” said Song Tou Xiong. “We love him (Kham) because he was a good person and sacrificed his life to protect our country and the American people.”
Kham See will be have a public wake on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 28-29 at Legacy Funeral Home, 1310 Frost Avenue in Maplewood. Public officials and community leaders are scheduled to pay their respects and speak on Saturday between noon and 5:00 p.m. A full military burial is scheduled for sometime early Monday afternoon at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
Community of Peace Academy Principal Tim McGowan said that he was a teacher at the time Kham See came started at the school as an 8th grader. As an administrator, he recalled that Kham See, a member of the second graduating class in 2004, participated in many things during a time that the school was developing. He also played soccer and basketball.
“He (Kham See) was a person of sound character and not only a great role model to his peers but to his siblings and children,” said McGowan.
McGowan said this tragedy is especially difficult because there isn’t any logic or rationale to the way that Kham died. He said school community acknowledges that a tragedy has happened and that it must find a way to open its arms to the needs of the family.
“We wanted to do something to help out and I am sure there are a lot of things going on for the family right now,” he said.
Community of Peace Academy Charter School has been named as the facilitator of the memorial donations on behalf of Kham See’s family. He was the sole financial provider for his spouse Shoua and their three children.
“Because of that loss of income she is struggling and we are trying to get money to pay for things and provide for three children ages 5 and under,” said James DeLong, director of development, CPA. “We are trying to get funds for this difficult time.”
Members of the community are invited to make a financial contribution that will greatly assist Shoua and their children through this very difficult time. Checks can be made payable to, “Community of Peace Academy.” The memo portion of a personal check should be marked as, “Xiong Memorial” to reflect the purpose of one’s gift.
Please direct donations and donation-related inquiries to the attention of James DeLong, Director of Development. Non-donation inquiries can be directed to Dr. Karen Rusthoven, Executive Director and K-6 Principal, or Tim McGowan, 7-12 Principal. Call 651-776-5151 or email JamesD@cpa.charter.k12.mn.us for more information.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the November 10 Fort Hood ceremony. The President spoke of Kham See at the memorial service, noting that “Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child.”
“He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service,” said Obama. “He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.
“These men and women came from all parts of the country,” Obama added. “Some had long careers in the military. Some had signed up to serve in the shadow of 9/11. Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some cared for those did. Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered.”
“I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Private First Class Kham Xiong,” said Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-4). “This senseless act of violence has resulted in a tremendous loss for the Xiong family, but also for residents of Saint Paul, and indeed our entire nation.
“Private First Class Xiong was among the brave men and women in uniform who volunteer to serve and sacrifice in order to protect our nation’s freedom,” she added. “Congress and the entire country join the Xiong family in mourning this loss and we hold the memory of PFC Kham Xiong in our hearts.”