One of the three Marines presumed dead over the weekend after an aircraft crash off the Australian coast is 1st Lt. Benjamin Cross, of Bethel, Maine.
His parents Valerie and Robert Cross, and older brother Ryan Cross, say the Marine was living his dream, flying aircraft and serving in the military.
"He was really happy and felt like he finally made it," said Robert.
According to a statement from the Marines, an Osprey aircraft carrying 26 personnel launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard on Saturday. It was performing a routine training exercise when it crashed.
Twenty-three of the 26 people on board were rescued. It is unknown if Benjamin, who was a pilot for the Marines, was flying the plane. Regardless, the Cross family says they take comfort knowing that he was doing what he loved.
Family and friends say Benjamin knew at an early age that he wanted to be a pilot. He was the type of person who made goals and pursued them relentlessly, his family said. He was accepted on a full scholarship to the Virginia Military Institute.
"He was everyone's rock," said Ryan, 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."
Ben was a star student and athlete at Telstar High School in Bethel, Maine.
"He was always talking about flying, and I'm glad he got to pursue his dreams," said childhood friend Daegan Conrad. "He was a great mentor, always there for me and there for a laugh when you needed it."
The Cross family is planning to hold a community memorial in the Bethel area. They have not yet announced a time or venue.