Heart of gold, legacy of courage: Remembering Bassam Issa

Bassam Issa served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan for three years as a mechanic.

By Oona Goodin-Smith

Bassam Issa of Sterling Heights, a veteran, friend, family man, and criminal justice student, died Sunday night as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. He was 27.

“I just talked to him last week,” said OU Veterans Liaison and friend of Bassam, Bradley Reichelt. “He’d just finished his internship at the Oakland County Correctional Facility and said it was one of the coolest things he’s done.”

Bassam was set to graduate from Oakland University in April 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and spoke with Reichelt about the possibility of applying to grad school to pursue a master’s degree.

“You see so many people lost not knowing what they want to do,” said Reichelt. “It’s a great thing when somebody actually finds something they’re passionate about.”

In fact, according to Bassam’s cousin, Elvis Issa, Bassam “always knew what he wanted to do.”

“He had control of his life; he was the oldest [sibling] and always took charge. He wasn’t scared of anything. He even jumped out of airplanes in the Army,” said Elvis.

Bassam, a member of the Army Reserve, joined the military as a mechanic after graduating from Adlai Stevenson High School in 2005. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan for three years.

“He always loved working on cars and fixing things,” said another of Bassam’s cousins, Simon Issa. “One time he told me how he had to fix a Hummer in the ‘red zone’ [an area in Baghdad unsafe for American soldiers] with shots being fired all around him. He was always very brave and confident.”

It was not until after Bassam went on leave from the Army to attend OU that he became interested in what grew to be his passion: his Kawasaki 2005 motorcycle.

“Whenever he had time, we’d go out to bike— maybe twice, three times a week, if we could,” said Bassam’s friend and fellow biker Kyle Paulan. 

“He loved his Go-Pro [camera] and always had it on his helmet. As soon as one of us would do something stupid, he’d whip it on to catch us,” Paulan said. “He had a great sense of humor.”

On the day of the crash, Paulan, Bassam, and several of his cousins rode to Hell, Michigan for a day trip. They stopped for ice cream and ate at Olive Garden, Bassam’s favorite restaurant. 

The group rode back together to metro-Detroit before splitting off to ride to their homes. Fifteen minutes after separating, Bassam’s motorcycle crashed into a 2005 Chevy Silverado along eastbound I-696 near Evergreen Road. Details of the accident are still under investigation, according to the Southfield Police Department.

“He was one of the safest riders in the group,” said Paulan. “He was always wearing a helmet and he did that day.”

Perhaps, however, Bassam Issa will be remembered most by his friends and family for the love that he showed for others.  

“He cared a lot for his family and friends, was always looking out for them,” said Bassam’s cousin, Frank Issa. 

Nick Walter, Bassam’s criminal justice classmate, remembered Bassam for his lively presence in the classroom. “He was always smiling, always laughing and joking around, but was also really dedicated and asked a lot of questions. You could tell he was always trying his best.”

“He had a heart of gold,” said Frank. “He truly did.”

 A service was held for Bassam Issa on Tuesday, September 30 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Troy.

For more information on a tribute to Issa through Oakland University’s Veterans Support services, visit   www.oakalnd.edu/veterans or look to The Oakland Post for the latest updates.

Contact Editor-in-Chief Oona Goodin-Smith at [email protected]