SUPERIOR, WI, USA U.S. Army CPL, COMPANY C, 1ST BATTALION, 23D INFANTRY, 3D SBCT, (4ID), FORT LEWIS, WA BAGHDAD, IRAQ 08/27/2006
Corporal Kenneth Cross proposed to his girlfriend after two weeks of dating. He enlisted in the U.S. Army without discussing it with his parents. Cross, 21, was a man who knew what he wanted in life and made it happen.
Based in Fort Lewis, Wash., Kenneth had been in the Middle East for two months as a Stryker tank driver, 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 said. “He was up to mischief most of the time,” said his mother, laughing. She added that he loved kids and animals, and they loved him in return.
As he drove down a road in Iraq recently, a young girl walking nearby with her mother blew Kenneth a kiss, Elizabeth said. He caught it in his hand and smiled at her.
“Everywhere he goes, little kids warm up to him,” Michael said.
Kenneth dropped out of high school during his senior year and earned his general education diploma, “because he wanted to go right into the service,” Elizabeth 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 said. “I didn’t think it was the right time for him to go into the service.”
Kenneth met his future wife, Heidi, of Steilacoom, Wash., through an online dating service about two years ago. The two were friends for some time before dating; they married in April. The couple had planned to start a family when he returned from Iraq next year, and a 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 Cross said in a phone interview. “He treated me like a queen and an angel. I don’t think we ever had a bad moment.”
Kenneth could be trusted with anything, she said, and he wanted a big family like his own, with five brothers and one sister. She spoke to her husband 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.”
Kenneth’s brother, Cliff Hoyt, said he was “a character. A great little brother,” Hoyt said. “I used to chase him around the yard, but I could never catch him.”
Kenneth 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 said.
“He didn’t listen.”