Capt. Ben Cross celebrated by family and Bethel community

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The gravesite of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross is seen during his graveside service in Bethel on Saturday.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders stand holding American flags during the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

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Ben Cross’ casket is taken out of the hearse during the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Two U.S. Marines who carried Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross’ casket salute during his graveside service in Bethel on Saturday.

Ben Cross’ mother, father, brother, sister-in-law and niece sit in front of the casket Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross during his graveside service in Bethel on Saturday.

Reese LaFerriere from the Virginia military Institute Pipe and Drum Band performs “Shenandoah” on the bagpipes during the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Taps is played as part of the full military honors bestowed on Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross during his graveside service in Bethel on Saturday.

U.S. Marines fold the American flag before presenting it to Ben’s mother, Valerie Cross, during the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

U.S. Marines fold the American flag before presenting it to Ben’s mother, Valerie Cross, during the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

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U.S. Marines stand before Ben’s mother, Valerie Cross, after presenting her with a folded American flag during the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Three U.S. Marines stand ready to fire three volleys during the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross’ niece, Allison, stands in front of Cross’ casket during his remembrance service in Bethel on Saturday.

Christopher Young, Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross’ uncle, delivers a remembrance at Cross’ service in Bethel on Saturday.

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Outside the Telstar Regional High School auditorium, a guest holds the program for the service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Reese LaFerriere waits in the wings of the Telstar Regional High School auditorium to perform on the bagpipes at the service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Lt. Jeremy Methven, friend of Ben Cross, delivers a remembrance at the service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross’ brother, Ryan, smiles as he shares some memories of the brother’s childhood at Cross’ service in Bethel on Saturday.

Ben Cross’ mother, Valerie, smiles at a memory of Ben’s love of “Jurassic Park,” and especially his favorite dinosaur, the velociraptor, which her son, Ryan, shares at the service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

Ben Cross’ niece, Allison Cross, sits in her mother’s lap at the service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday as her mother and others laugh at Ryan Cross’ story about his brother, Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross, who once stripped to his underwear and boots to pump gas. He did so to avoid breaking U.S. Marine Corps regulation of exiting his vehicle in uniform.

BETHEL — From the lack of empty seats in the auditorium, to the teary, affectionate way his mother was hugged by so many, it was clear that Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross had left his mark on the heart of everyone he met.

Cross’ Celebration of Life was held on Saturday in the Telstar Regional High School auditorium, and people from all over the world came to remember and cherish the much-loved Marine and pay their respects.

State troopers, Oxford County sheriffs and fellow Marines lined the auditorium.

Ben’s casket, draped in the American flag and surrounded by flowers, was placed in front of the stage with his picture next to it. His young niece, Allison, twirled in her pretty pink dress, smiled and pointed at the picture, saying, “Uncle Ben!”

The service began with a performance by Reese Lafferrier of the Virginia Military Institute Pipes and Drums Band, playing “Scotland the Brave” on bagpipes. The Rev. Leslie Chatfield then gave the invocation.

“Most of us would prefer not to be here, but can’t be anywhere else,” Chatfield said. “It was a privilege to be in life together with him.”

Ben’s father, Robert Cross, spoke of how much Ben meant to everyone, and how proud he is of his son.

“It’s going to be a long road for us,” he said.

Valerie, Ben’s mother, read a poem called “A Pilot’s Prayer.”

“But when my flight is over, and no longer there’s a wait, I pray for a smooth landing, at Heaven’s pearly gate,” she read.

Ben’s brother, Ryan, listened with closed eyes, holding back tears.

Ben’s uncle, Christopher Young, spoke of Ben’s drive to achieve all his goals — which he did.

“He achieved every goal he set, and raised the bar for us,” said Young, who said that when Ben would play on his grandparent’s lawn, he would make his older cousin be the plane, because he wanted to be the pilot.

Retired Col. Patrick Looney attended VMI with Ben, and said he attributes any success he had there to Ben’s mentoring.

Best friend and fellow Marine 1st Lt. Jeremy Methven said Ben was as excited about his aircraft as Methven is about his children, and told Methven he felt as though he was doing exactly was he was meant to be doing before his final deployment.

“Ben had something to do with the fact that 23 Marine families aren’t doing the same thing we are today,” said Methven, referencing the 23 out of 26 Marines that survived the crash that killed Ben.

Ryan gave a eulogy that had everyone in tears.

“The day Ben was born was the day I met my best friend — the bond was instant,” said Ryan, who spoke of the way he and Ben would look up into the night sky from their bunk beds, and ponder life’s possibilities.

Ryan himself pondered the measure of a man as he gave his eulogy, and said if a man is measured by love, compassion and devotion, Ben was the best man he’d ever known.

“Ben, I love you,” Ryan said. “It’s been a privilege to call you my brother, and this is not goodbye. It’s ‘see you later.’”

And so, the mourners went home. They would cry some more, they would try to cope and move on, and they would remember.

And all of them — every single person whose life Ben has touched — will carry a piece of him with them always.

emarquis@sunmediagroup.net

Three U.S. Marines stand ready to fire three volleys at the graveside service of Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross in Bethel on Saturday.

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A U.S. Marine presents Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross’ father, Robert Cross, with the casings from the volley fired earlier in Cross’ graveside ceremony in Bethel on Saturday.

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