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Marine assumed dead in Australia crash went to VMI

(US Marine Corps)

LEXINGTON, Va. – A Virginia Military Institute graduate is one of the three Marines who are presumed dead after a US military aircraft ditched into waters off Australia's east coast on Saturday. 

Twenty-six-year-old 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross, who graduated in 2013, was a Marine aviator and had been training in Australia for the past three months, according to VMI. 

While at VMI, 1st Lt. Cross held the rank of Company G 1st Platoon lieutenant in the Corps of Cadets. He was an economics and business major, and participated in the scuba club.

He was accepted on a full scholarship to VMI. 

Military families know it's the worst-case scenario, but the Cross family says nothing prepared them for the news they got on Saturday. 

"He was everyone's rock," said his brother, Ryan Cross, who also served in the military. "So many people leaned on Ben in their time of need, and I certainly used Ben as my rock. Part of me is gone forever."

1st Lt. Benjamin Cross' family says he knew at an early age that he wanted to fly. Though he was young, Cross learned how to fly the military's osprey aircraft. It was in a training mission in Australia that Cross' aircraft crashed. His family doesn't know if he was the one flying, but they know he died living his dream. 

After extensive search and rescue efforts, the US Marine Corps has identified the other two fallen Marines as Cpl. Nathaniel Ordway, 21, and Pfc. Ruben Velasco, 19.

Twenty-three of the 26 personnel on board the aircraft were rescued, the Corps said.

A salvage operation to recover the aircraft will start later this week. 

Here is the statement from VMI:

Marine 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross ’13 is presumed dead along with two other Marines after his MV-22 Osprey crashed off the northeast coast of Australia Saturday. The accident occurred while attempting to land the aircraft on a Navy ship.

The rescue effort, which saved 23 of the 26 service members onboard, was suspended Sunday, and the Australian navy located the underwater wreck on Monday.

Cross was a Marine aviator, and had been training in Australia for the past three months.  The Osprey was part of the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okinawa.

Cross was a native of Bethel, Maine, and attended the Institute on a Naval ROTC scholarship.

While at the Institute, Cross held the rank of Company G 1st Platoon lieutenant in the Corps of Cadets, was an economics and business major, and was a member of the scuba club.