Seaman Richard Cross had grown up surrounded by military men and their stories. The glory and horror of war was close at hand through the remaining members of the Ira Five, a group of five young men from Ira who all enlisted in the Army to serve in World War I. One died abroad, the other four returned.
One of the men lived close to Cross, and according to him, was an influence on his own decision to enlist once he was old enough.
After training in a local radio school and gaining a bit of proficiency with the craft, Cross enlisted in the United States Navy on January 8, 1952, where he would have the opportunity to use his specialization to serve his country. The Navy initially wanted him to join a construction regiment due to his expertise as a brick-layer and mason, but Cross wanted to employ his radio skills.
He went to radio school in San Diego, entrusting his radio and television repair business to Jack Sell of Marshalltown in his absence. His young wife, Beverly Cross, initially stayed in Baxter to work in a doctors office.
Leaving home was hard for Cross, especially only three years after his wedding, but he enjoyed the experience of being able to travel in the service of his country.
“When you’re in the military, you do what they tell you and they go exactly where they tell you. You don’t have a lot of control that way. Everyone who serves will have that experience. Well I got my orders to go to Puerto Rico.,” Cross said.
Richard deployed to a suburb of San Juan where he was joined by Beverly. While there, Cross worked on a base outside of town where him an a number of other seaman were bussed each day. His radio work there was highly classified, and he can remember an instance of one man being sent home on a moment’s notice after talking too freely during their commute.
On February 10, 1954, Cross was discharged from the service and returned home with Beverly.
He returned to his work as a mason. Chances are, you’ve seen his work around Newton and Jasper County as he has worked on a number of churches and businesses on the square.
Towards the end of his career, Cross also worked for 7 years on the reconstruction of the Iowa State Capital building.
He took up blacksmithing as a hobby, continuing his lifelong interest of working with his hands. He also maintained an active involvement with his local American Legion Post #493.
Cross said that he could recommend the service to young people who might be interested.
“It gives you an experience that you wouldn’t have otherwise and it lets you get out and see places that you probably would never see.”
For the Cross family, those are experiences and places that they will never forget.