CORAL SEA, AUSTRALIA — Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross, 26, of Bethel, passed away aturday, Aug. 5, in the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia in the faithful service of his country.
Ben began his beautiful life in Waterville on Jan. 23, 1991. His entrance into this world brought unbelievable joy to his family and forever changed their lives for the better. As a child, Ben loved being outdoors. Whether skiing, snowboarding, playing baseball, or just running around in the backyard, Ben was always active. As a student he shined, consistently earning a spot on the honor roll. Ben attended Telstar Regional Middle and High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, class president, Boys State attendee, and voted, “Mr. Telstar,” by faculty and staff. Ben also played on the varsity baseball and soccer teams. During his senior year, Ben received a full Naval ROTC Marine-option scholarship. He graduated from Telstar Regional High School in 2009.
Following high school, Ben attended the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., where he majored in business and economics. Ben excelled academically as well as in his leadership responsibilities as a member of the Corps of Cadets. He was consistently on the Dean’s List and received numerous awards, including the VMI Distinguished Third Class Leadership Award and the National Defense Transportation Medal for outstanding achievement and exceptional performance in Naval ROTC. He was also a member of the Omicron Delta Epsilon Honor Society for Economics and the Gamma Sigma Honor Society for Business.
As a sophomore, Ben completed training at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center learning how to conduct military operations in mountainous environments. During the summer following his junior year, Ben graduated from the USMC’s Officer Candidate School. Ben loved his time at VMI and the many friends and memories he made there. Upon graduation in 2013 Ben commissioned into the United States Marine Corps as a 2nd lieutenant.
In August 2013, Ben reported to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., to attend The Basic School, a course where all newly commissioned Marine Corps officers are educated in the high standards of professional knowledge, esprit-de-corps, and leadership to prepare them for duty as company grade officers.
Following graduation from The Basic School, he began flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. While in Pensacola he attended Introductory Flight Screening, consisting of 10 flights and one solo flight in a single-engine aircraft, as well as multiple academic examinations. He then moved on to Aviation Preflight Indoctrination where he received instruction in aerodynamics, aviation weather, air navigation, flight rules and regulations, and aircraft engines and systems. Upon completion of API, Ben moved on to Primary Flight Training located at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., where he was immersed in intensive academic and hands-on instruction in visual flight, basic instrument flying, aerobatics, radio instrument navigation, formation flying, and conducted several solo flights as he learned to pilot the Beechcraft T-6B single-engine, turboprop aircraft. After completing Primary Flight School, Ben received his aircraft assignment, the MV-22 Osprey, based on his preference, academic performance and class standing. This was Ben’s first choice of aircraft and he eagerly awaited the follow-on schools where he would become certified to fly it.
His first stop was Intermediate Flight Training, also taught at NAS Whiting Field. Because of the vertical take-off and landing capability of the MV-22, Ben first had to learn to fly rotary wing aircraft. This was taught using the TH-57 Sea Ranger helicopter and gave him the basic skills he would need as he progressed in his training. Ben then relocated to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi for Advanced Multi-Engine Training utilizing the T-44C Pegasus. This training was essential to his progression as a future Osprey pilot. It was following completion of this training where Ben finally received his “Wings of Gold” and the title of Marine Aviator. He then reported to Marine Corps Air Station New River where he learned to fly the MV-22 Osprey.
After almost two and a half years of intensive training, Ben reported to VMM-265 (REIN) “Dragons,” located at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan in October 2016. Ben quickly proved himself as a skilled and capable pilot and earned praise from his superiors as well as respect from his peers. He demonstrated his strong work ethic by earning additional flight qualifications while performing his regular daily duties. In May 2017 Ben left Okinawa aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard to take part in bilateral training exercises in Australia.
Ben lived his life with an unparalleled vigor, putting his heart and soul into all he did. His integrity and moral character were second to none. He touched the lives of so many, leaving a legacy of compassion, honesty and loyalty that will carry on forever. He will be missed immensely by countless family members, friends and the Bethel community.
Ben is survived by his parents, Robert III and Valerie Cross, of Bethel; his brother, sister-in-law, and niece, Ryan, Jacqueline and Allison Cross, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; paternal grandparents, Robert II and Joan Cross, of Skowhegan; maternal grandparents, Erik and Martha Walter, of Madison; as well as numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Online condolences may be shared with his family at www.chandlerfunerals.com.