Rural Superior soldier dies in roadside bomb attack
Cpl. Kenneth Cross proposed to his wife, Heidi, after two weeks of dating. He enlisted in the U.S. Army without discussing it first with his parents. Cross, 21, was a man who knew what he wanted in life and made it happen.
Cross was killed Sunday in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq, according to his parents, Michael and Elizabeth Cross of Parkland, just east of Superior. Based in Fort Lewis, Wash., he had been in the Middle East for two months, stationed in both Kuwait and Baghdad. A driver of a Stryker tank, he was trained in frontline combat duties.
"He was a fun kid - always smiling, laughing, joking -- you never knew what he was going to do," Michael Cross said.
"He was up to mischief most of the time," his mother laughed, adding that he loved kids and animals, and they loved him in return.
Driving down a road in Iraq recently, a young girl walking nearby with her mother blew Cross a kiss, Elizabeth Cross said. He caught it in his hand and smiled at her.
"Everywhere he goes, little kids warm up to him," Michael Cross said.
Cross is the second Superiorite killed while serving in Iraq. Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Van Alstine suffered fatal wounds from a roadside bomb in February.
Cross dropped out of Superior High School during his senior year and earned his general education diploma, "because he wanted to go right into the service," Elizabeth Cross said.
Influenced by a grandfather who served in World War II, he knew he wanted to be a soldier since he was 8 years old.
"He was determined; he was going to be in the infantry and you couldn't talk him out of it," Elizabeth Cross said. "I didn't think it was the right time for him to go into the service."
He met Heidi Cross, of Steilacoom, Wash., through an online dating service. The two were friends for some time before dating, and married in April. The couple had planned to start a family when he returned from Iraq next year, and a wedding reception for those who missed their wedding in Washington was in the works.
"He was always doing something goofy to make me laugh -- even on the bad days," Heidi said in a phone interview. "He treated me like a queen and an angel. I don't think we ever had a bad moment."
Cross could be trusted with anything, she said, and wanted a big family like his own, with five brothers and one sister.
She spoke to Kenneth two hours before his death.
"People say I'm pretty lucky to have talked to him right before it happened," she said, grateful she was able to tell him she loved him, "I don't know how many times."
Cross's brother, Cliff Hoyt, described him as "a character."
"A great little brother," he said. "I used to chase him around the yard, but I could never catch him."
Cross liked to play guitar and video games, watch horror movies and jog. He got used to doing push-ups in basic training, his mother said, because his sense of humor often got him in trouble.
But he was intelligent, his father said, and he loved what he did.
The Cross family, possessing a rich military history, was still afraid for Kenneth as he worked in Iraq.
"I told him when he went over there it took me nine months to put him together perfectly, and there better not be any more holes in him than when he left," Elizabeth Cross said. "He didn't listen."
The family was told by military personnel that he didn't suffer.
"That was a big thing," Elizabeth Cross said. "But there are too many wasted lives over there."
Funeral arrangements are pending. The family is unsure when his remains will be returned to the United States and where he will be buried.
The Crosses had just learned his address in Baghdad and had begun assembling a care package filled with drawings from his nieces and nephews, beef jerky and dill pickle chips, his favorite.
"We weren't prepared for the worst," Elizabeth Cross said. "Kids are supposed to grow up and have grandchildren for you; hopefully you live to see the great-grandchildren, and then they carry on. It's not supposed to happen this way."
Jana Hollingsworth is a Daily Telegram staff writer. The Daily Telegram is owned by Forum Communications Company, the parent company of the RiverTown Newspaper Group.