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VMI remembers 'exceptional' Marine presumed dead in Australian crash

Marine 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross leaves a legacy of leadership on post

LEXINGTON, Va. – A 2013 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute is presumed dead after a crash.
     
U.S. military officials say 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross was one of three Marines killed when an MV-22 Osprey crashed off the coast of Australia on Saturday during a training mission.

Ben Cross came to VMI on a full scholarship. He was an economic and business major and a member of the scuba club.

Besides his academic status, Lt. Colonel Bill Bither says Ben stood out from the other cadets as a top company officer and a responsible leader.

"He was responsible for the RAT training during matriculation week and he kept an eye on the RATS," said retired Army Lt. Col. Bill Bither.

Bither believes Ben was very mission focused. He was extremely proud to see him grow in the military.

"I knew he was going to do great things in the Marine Corp and made it through flight school and flying a V-22 which is a very difficult airplane to fly," said Bither.

At the time of his death, Marine 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross was a Marine Aviator. 

"Ben died doing what he loved to do as he was flying as a USMC. My heart also goes out to the family of the two other marines," said Colonel Patrick Looney. 

When Ben was a senior at VMI, Looney says Ben was a mentor to him when he came to institute in 2012.

"Ben to really introduce me to VMI and teach me the VMI way. He did it very respectfully and tactfully. I asked Ben when I was supposed to assert myself and when I was not supposed to," said Looney, a retired Marine.

Their relationship left a lasting impression on Colonel Looney.

"I'm a better man and better Marine for having to served with Ben. I will take the time I had with him to better my performance," said Looney.

He was able to see Ben two years ago.

"I went down to Pensacola when he was in flight school and I went for a ROTC seminar," said Looney.

And he was a great role model to all.

"He was at the top of the pack," said Bither.

Although he graduated in 2013, his VMI family say they will continue to be inspired by the legacy he leaves behind.