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Nov. 11

Volunteer Service Feels Like Home for This Nomadic Family

On Veterans Day, Points of Light salutes the military families who not only make sacrifices, but who continually support the men and women in the U.S. 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 and nominate someone in your community.

crossfamily.jpgFrom left, Lt. Col. John Cross; son Josh, 11; daughter Danielle, 14; and wife, Laura

Lt. Col. John Cross, 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 lived in West Point, N.Y., since 2012 – the longest amount of time they have ever been stationed anywhere.

“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.

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.

“We help young people develop skills and character traits that enable them in the future,” says John, commandant of the United States Military Academy Preparatory School at West Point.

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. “It definitely makes it worthwhile.”

In the 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.”

The Cross children are learning that lesson. Josh, who volunteers in his school with his Boy Scout troop and the 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 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 “spa nights,” where they interact with the women in the recovery center by giving them facials, back massages, pedicures and manicures.  

“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.”

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