BETHEL — Hundreds attended a service Saturday in Bethel to celebrate the life of Marine Capt. Benjamin Robert Cross, who was killed last month during a training exercise off the coast of Australia.

Family, friends and fellow Marines described Cross as a natural leader and true friend who improved the lives of everyone who knew him.

“Ben meant so much to everyone he touched, and those that touched him,” said his father, Robert Cross. “We are so proud of him and everything he accomplished.”

Cross, 26, was among three Marines killed on Aug. 5 when their MV-22 Osprey crashed into the Coral Sea while trying to land on a Navy ship off the east coast of Australia. Fellow Marine Cpl. Nathaniel Ordway, 21, of Kansas and Lance Cpl. Ruben Velasco, 19, of California also died in the crash.

Cross had been stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa for the past year and was training in Australia for the last three months, family members said.

Cross, a first lieutenant who was promoted posthumously to captain, spent most of his childhood in Bethel, where he was a standout athlete and student. He graduated in 2009 from Telstar Regional High School in Bethel.

Saturday’s memorial service at Telstar Regional was followed by a burial with full military honors at Riverside Cemetery in Bethel. Speakers at the service shared stories about Cross’ determination, humility, selflessness and sense of humor.

Cross’ uncle Christopher Young described him as one of those rare people who set specific goals early in life and achieved them. His dedication, generosity and desire to succeed made him an exceptional student, athlete, Marine and friend, Young said.

“Ben Cross accomplished all of that, and much more,” he said.

Marine Col. Patrick Looney said he met Cross at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, when Cross was a senior at the prestigious military college. Cross, who attended the institute on a full scholarship, was a Marine aviator who loved to fly, according to family and friends.

Looney said he was deeply saddened by the news of Cross’ death.

“Ben died doing what he loved: flying as a United States Marine,” he said.

The Osprey in which Cross died had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard and was conducting regularly scheduled operations when it crashed about 4 p.m. local time, according to the Marine base at Camp Butler in Japan. The ship’s small boats and aircraft immediately responded in the search-and-rescue efforts, rescuing 23 of the 26 personnel aboard the aircraft.

A friend and fellow Marine, 1st Lt. Jeremy Methven, said Cross was the type of leader who would put the safety of his fellow Marines before his own. Methven said Cross’ actions during the deadly crash were likely those of personal sacrifice for the sake of others.

“He knew he was doing what he was put on this earth to do – we all know that,” Methven said. “When times are tough and we really need it, Ben will be there for all of us.”

Cross’ older brother, Ryan Cross, gave the eulogy at Saturday’s memorial service. He described his younger brother as a lifelong best friend who was precocious, funny and ambitious as a young boy.

“Growing up with Ben was always an adventure,” Ryan Cross said.

He said his brother approached life with “an enthusiasm and devotion rarely seen,” including one time as a boy when Cross was given a piece of Native American jewelry and decided he wanted to become a Native American, not understanding that it wasn’t a matter of choice.

Ryan Cross said that throughout his brother’s life, he remained a person of “unfailing integrity” who was full of courage, humor, morality and compassion.

“He was committed to doing the right thing, even when no one was looking,” Ryan Cross said. “Ben, I love you. I’m so proud of you, and I’ll never forget you.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

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