Fort Hood victims include St. Paul soldier

Published 2:15 pm Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Minnesota soldier and father of three who had a knack for making people laugh was among those killed when an Army psychiatrist allegedly opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.

Pfc. Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, died in the attack Thursday that left 13 people dead and more than two dozen wounded. The alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was among the injured.

“I very mad,” Xiong’s father, Chor Xiong, said Friday. Through sniffles and tears, he said his son died for “no reason” and he has a hard time believing Kham is gone.

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“He was a very good son,” he said.

Kham Xiong was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, and his sister Mee Xiong said the family would have been able to understand if Kham would have died in battle. But the death on U.S. soil just didn’t make sense.

“He didn’t get to go overseas and do what he’s supposed to do, and he’s dead … killed by our own people,” Mee Xiong said.

Xiong was one of 11 siblings and came to the U.S. when he was just a toddler. He grew up in California, then moved to Minnesota with the family about 10 years ago, Chor Xiong said.

Kham Xiong was married and had three children ages 4, 2 and 10 months. He and his wife had moved to Texas in July, his father said.

Xiong’s 17-year-old brother, Robert, wrote on his MySpace page on Friday: “Crushed with bad news…”; postings from earlier showed glimpses of a younger brother who was worried: “praying for my bro’s safty!!!!!! at fort hood….”

Mee Xiong said family members learned of her brother’s death Friday morning, but the government has given them no details on the circumstances or exact cause of death.

Xiong attended Community of Peace Academy, graduating in 2004, said high school principal Tim McGowan.

“His greatest attribute was his ability to make people smile and make people laugh. Looking back, that’s the fondest memory I have — is that smile of his and that smile that he brought to my face,” McGowan said.

“He just had that knack to bring that positive energy into whatever setting he was in,” McGowan added.

Xiong’s sister agreed.

“Oh my God, he’s such a joker. He’s the clown of the class, he’s everything,” Mee Xiong said. “He’s missed a lot by a lot of people.”

McGowan, who taught 7th- and 8th-grade math before he became principal, was also one of Xiong’s teachers. He said Xiong played basketball and “had his hands in everything” at the charter school.

“As a teacher, you have your students that bring a laugh to you, and he was one you could, rest assured, that when you were having a lower day, he was someone who was going to bring a smile, or crack a smile from you,” McGowan said.

Chor Xiong said his son came from a culture of military service: Chor is a native of Laos who fought the Viet Cong alongside the CIA in 1972; Chor’s father, Kham’s grandfather, also fought with the CIA; and Kham’s brother, Nelson, is a Marine serving in Afghanistan.

Xiong also enjoyed fishing, and he liked to hunt deer and squirrel.

“It’s difficult to make sense of it,” McGowan said of Xiong’s death. “He was a well-rounded, sound individual.”

Rep. Betty McCollum, whose district includes St. Paul, called Xiong’s death a senseless act of violence.

“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 said in a statement. “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.”

For a father, the death of the little boy who followed his dad everywhere was hard to take. “I don’t think he’s dead,” Chor Xiong said, then whispered, “I don’t think he’s dead.”