On Veteran’s Day, Points of Light salutes the military families who not only make sacrifices, but continually support the men and women in the United States armed forces. And in honor of Family Volunteer Day, Nov. 22, Points of Light and Disney are recognizing the exceptional work of volunteer families with the Daily Point of Light Award. Meet today’s winning family, the Cross Family of West Point, NY, and nominate someone in your community.
LTC John Cross, Commandant of the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, his wife, Laura, and their two children, Danielle, 14, and Josh, 11, are a well-traveled family.
Having moved 11 times in the past 19 years – whether to Germany or various posts around the United States – the Cross family has learned to adapt to their ever-changing surroundings. The common denominator at every stop has always been to support not only men and women in uniform, but their entire community through volunteer service.
The family has made their current home in West Point, New York since 2012, which is the longest amount of time they have ever been stationed anywhere. Regardless of how long they spend in a particular place, the Crosses make the most of their time by serving their country and those in need.
“Being in the military, you are kind of nomadic,” says Laura. “Wherever you are planted you find ways to get involved because you are only there for a short period of time.”
Laura credits the military atmosphere with providing ample opportunity to plug into different causes through ministries, school systems, mentoring programs, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She feels that since military families are generally so transient, there are so many ways to jump in and join community causes.
At West Point’s venerable United States Military Academy, the Cross family has helped two graduating classes through a mentoring program where Cadets can ask questions about how to handle different situations as their responsibilities grow in the army. These Cadets hear perspectives on all dimensions from the military spouse, children and officer of the Cross family. John says, “We help young people develop skills and character traits that enable them in the future.”
For some of these Cadets, the Cross family is their surrogate family away from home. “We’ve had parents contact us and thank us for loving on their child while they are here at the academy,” says Laura. “So you know what the cadet is relaying to his or her parents is a positive thing. It definitely makes it worthwhile.”
In the short time they’ve been at West Point, Laura and John have formed strong enough relationships to keep in touch with some of the Cadets who have graduated. Laura says even if they never received a thank you, they would still sponsor these men and women. “We don’t do it for the recognition,” says Laura. “It’s not about you, but it’s about the impact you have on them.”
This selfless outlook is visible in all members of the Cross family. Josh, who volunteers in his school, with his Boy Scout Troop and Special Olympics, says his time volunteering made him realize, “that my talents could be used to help others and that it’s not always just about me.”
Danielle and Laura are involved as a mother-daughter team with the Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) outreach program, which runs a Christian addiction recovery center for women called the Walter Hoving Home. Through this program, Danielle and Laura have participated with a team of 35 volunteers in PWOC “spa nights,” where they interact with the women in the recovery center by giving them facials, back massages, pedicures and manicures.
“Many of them have never been treated like they are worth something,” Laura says. “To have someone dote on them, even something as simple as washing their feet or rubbing their hands, just relaxes and energizes them and then they share their stories.”
Laura emphasizes the relationships she and Danielle have formed with the women in the recovery center. Danielle holds craft nights and knitting and crochet projects two to three times a month at the Walter Hoving House in addition to spa night.
“Volunteering constantly reminds me of how great God is and how He can work in the most broken lives, restoring them,” says Danielle. “It always leaves me in awe.”
Just last week West Point neighbors, scouts and all the members of the Cross family came together to participate in an annual flag planting at the cemetery for Veteran’s Day. This solemn and symbolic activity epitomizes how the Crosses think holistically about all the members of their community.
“I grew up in a small town where you take care of each other,” says Laura. “The people around us, our neighbors, our friends, some of these cadets, have really become part of our family.”