"My first thought was that something terrible had happened to Johnny," the emotional father said last night.
The soldiers arrived at the Xaysy home at about 2:30 a.m. yesterday to tell Kasem and his wife, Chintana, that their oldest son, Master Cpl. John Xaysy, had been killed in a motorcycle crash in Alberta.
The 26-year-old was a member of the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Cambridge and had been based at CFB Wainwright in Alberta since January 2006.
Xaysy's family said it was their understanding he was travelling home after work Thursday when he lost control of his motorcycle around 7 p.m.
Cpl. Robert Anderson, 22, of St. Catharines was injured in the crash but later released from hospital.
Xaysy, who was born and raised in Waterloo, was due to arrive home in just one week to attend his sister Soussamay's wedding.
His parents settled in Waterloo in 1980 after fleeing civil war in their native Laos. In keeping with Laotian tradition, his family gathered at Xaysy's childhood home last night to remember the soldier his cousins describe as "a big teddy bear" at heart.
"We're devastated," said his cousin Julia Sukhaseum.
She said Xaysy always dreamed of becoming a soldier and, at 16, joined the 21st Royal Army Cadets in Cambridge. At 18, he joined the Canadian Forces and later served six months in Bosnia.
Sukhaseum said Xaysy's family knew his work could take him to dangerous places but they are struggling to come to terms with his death.
"If it was a car bomb, we would have expected it," said his cousin, Hongvichith Xaysy. "We were prepared to accept that kind of death."
In Wainwright, Xaysy was a member of a team that portrayed Afghans in exercises to train Canadian troops.
"He said he was playing the chief of a Kandahar tribe," his cousin Soutsadada Vongsaly. "That meant a lot to him. He wasn't going overseas but he was contributing."
In a corner of the family's living room, there is a traditional shrine to John Xaysy, including a candle that will stay lit until he is buried next weekend in Waterloo.
Behind the candle, Xaysy's beaming face looks out from his Bluevale Collegiate graduation photo. Football trophies surrounding the photo pay tribute to his love for the sport, which he played for Bluevale.
An open can of iced tea, some fruit and traditional Laotian food are also part of the shrine.
"We believe in feeding the dead," Vongsaly said. "And Johnny loved to eat," she added with a smile.
Xaysy's younger brother, Jamie, 20, had recently moved to Wainwright, where he does construction work.
"He just wanted to be with his brother," Vongsaly said. "He really looked up to him."
The family still doesn't have many details about the crash. The RCMP are investigating. Xaysy purchased the motorcycle about five months ago.
For Xaysy's father, the details of his son's death aren't important right now.
"I don't want to know much about (the crash)," he said. "I just want my son home."
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In attendance will be: The Patriot Guard Riders Canada and the Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Units (a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation with an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for freedom and security. They attend the funeral services of fallen heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission they undertake has two basic objectives: show sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities and Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions)
JOHNNY XAYSY 23 December 1981 - 23 August 2007 Johnny passed away tragically, as a result of a motor vehicle accident, in Wainwright, AB, on Thursday, August 23, 2007, at the age of 25. He is survived by his loving parents Chintana and Kasem, sister Soussamay, brother Jamie and a very large extended family. Johnny was born and raised in Waterloo. He attended Bluevale Collegiate, was an active member of the football team and a very popular individual. He joined the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada (RHFC) in January 1999 and completed a number of military courses. From April to September 2001, he completed a tour on International Peacekeeping Operations within Bosnia Herzegovina. He was promoted to Master Corporal in August 2005 and was serving with the Canadian Maneuver Training Centre in Wainwright, AB when he passed away. He was an avid outdoorsman, who enjoyed fishing, hunting, nature and the environment. Friends are invited to share their memories of Johnny with his family during visitation at the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home , 171 King Street South, Waterloo, on Thursday, August 30, 2007 and Friday, August 31 from 7-9 p.m. with Parish Prayers held at 8:45 p.m., Friday. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Louis RC Church, 53 Allen Street E., Waterloo on Saturday, September 1, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. with the Rev. Ray Reitzel, CR., Celebrant. Interment and military graveside service will follow at Parkview Cemetery, Waterloo. Johnny was a highly respected member of the RHFC and will be missed by family and friends.
If you would like to leave a tribute, comments,pictures or videos of MCpl John Xaysy (Johnny X) you can visit: http://www.respectance.com/
A procession makes its way Saturday to the gravesite of Master Cpl. Johnny Xaysy, who was killed in a motorcycle crash on Aug. 23.
The funeral for Master Cpl. Johnny Xaysy filled St. Louis Roman Catholic Church with about 600 mourners, more than half of them from the military.
Nine soldiers came from Wainwright, Alta., where Xaysy died Aug. 23 in a motorcycle crash.
Xaysy, 25, was stationed in Wainwright with the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada. He joined the service in 1999 and in 2001 completed a tour in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
At his funeral, Xaysy was remembered as a respected soldier, a doting brother and a favourite uncle.
Cpl. Brandon Bartok of CFB Petawawa described him as one of his closest friends.
"It didn't matter the situation," Bartok said. "Johnny had your back.
"He never hesitated to put his life on the line."
A tribute to Xaysy was also read in Laotian, the native language of Xaysy's parents, Chintana and Kasem.
Rev. Ray Reitzel remembered Xaysy and his brother Jamie as altar servers at mass.
"In Grade 7 and 8, when it's not cool to serve anymore, Jamie and John stuck it out,'' he said.
Although Xaysy was a big man, the minister said, he was "meek and humble and ready to be of assistance to others.''
Reitzel joked about Xaysy's physical stature, referring to his days playing football for Bluevale Collegiate Institute. "I feel sorry for whoever came across John on the Bluevale football team,'' he said.
Members of the Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Units, based in Kingston, stood outside when mourners filed into the church and left the service.
At Parkview Cemetery in Waterloo, soldiers holding guns lined the procession route while eight soldiers carried the casket draped with the Canadian flag.
Attached to the flag were Xaysy's bayonet and headdress.
Const. Jeff VongKhamphou of the Waterloo regional police, who is a friend of the family, carried Xaysy's medals in the procession.
Xaysy had two medals -- one for serving in Bosnia and another for peacekeeping.
At graveside, a three-gun salute was fired and a bagpiper played a lament.
The the Canadian flag was folded and commanding officer Lt.-Col. Rick Peters presented the flag, the headdress, the bayonet and Xaysy's medals to his mother.
Chintana, who was supported by her daughter, Soussamay, cried and held her son's belongings to her chest.
The red poppy is an international rememberance of all fallen soldiers. It is worn proudly to remember those who have gone before me. Lest we forget, lest we forget.