War claims another Superiorite

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. He knew what he wanted in life and made it happen.

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. He knew what he wanted in life and made it happen.

At age 21, Cross was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. His parents, Michael and Elizabeth "Betty" Cross of Parkland, confirmed his death Monday.

Cross was among six U.S. soldiers who died in Sunday fighting, according to the Associated Press. Four were killed when their vehicle encountered a roadside bomb in northern Baghdad and one met the same fate in western Baghdad. The sixth died of gunshot wounds in the capitol.

Based in Fort Lewis, Wash., with the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry, Kenneth -- Kenny as his family remembers him -- had been in the Middle East for two months, serving in both Kuwait and Iraq. A driver of a Stryker tank, he was trained for front line combat.

"He was a fun kid -- always smiling, laughing, joking -- you never knew what he was going to do," his father, Michael, said Monday.


"He was up to mischief most of the time," added his mother, laughing. He loved kids and animals, and they loved him in return, she said.

As Cross recently drove down a road in Iraq, a young girl blew Kenny a kiss, Betty said. He caught it in his hand and smiled at her.

"Everywhere he goes, little kids warm up to him," Michael said.

Recently married

He met Heidi Cross, a teacher from Steilacoom, Wash., through an online dating service. The two were friends for some time before dating, and married in April. During their wedding ceremony, he gave Heidi his right hand instead of left when it was time to exchange rings.

"She was so nervous she didn't notice," Michael said. "He was quite the jokester."

Kenneth enjoyed life, and did everything he could to make Heidi happy, his wife said in a telephone interview.

"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."


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.

She was grateful she was able to tell him Sunday that she loved him "I don't know how many times."

Cross could be trusted with anything, she said, and wanted a big family like his own, with five brothers and one sister. 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.

Anxious to serve

Kenny 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," Betty said.

Influenced by his father, A Vietnam veteran, and his grandfathers -- one drove a tank during World War II and one was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941 -- Kenny 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," his mother said. "I didn't think it was the right time for him to go into the service."


Cross's brother, Cliff Hoyt, said Kenny was "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.

Despite the family's rich military history, they still were 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," Betty said. "He didn't listen."

The family was told by military personnel that he didn't suffer from the explosion.

"That was a big thing," Betty said. "But there are too many wasted lives over there."


Area's second loss

Kenneth Cross is the second former Superior High School student killed while serving in Iraq. Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Van Alstine suffered fatal wounds from a roadside bomb in February.

Funeral arrangements for Cross are pending. His 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-flavored chips, his favorite.

"We weren't prepared for the worst," Betty 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 staff writer. E-mail or call (715) 394-4421, ext. 137.

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