December 15, 2018
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Two Maine Marines who died overseas, 74 years apart, finally come home to rest

Two young Maine Marines who died in the line of duty 74 years apart — one during World War II and the other during a deadly aircraft crash in August — are finally home.

WWII Marine Pvt. Alberic “Brick” Blanchette, 19, of Caribou and Capt. Benjamin Cross, 26, of Bethel arrived home Thursday, and have funerals scheduled for Monday and Saturday, respectively.

Blanchette died in the bloody Battle of Tarawa in 1943 on a small Pacific island and was only recently identified by DNA, and Cross was one of three Marines who died Aug. 5 in a crash near Australia. His body was recovered nearly a month later.

Both veterans were escorted to their final resting places by the Maine State Police and others.

Blanchette’s procession arrived in Maine on Thursday afternoon, and the body of Cross, a second lieutenant who was posthumously promoted to captain, was scheduled to arrive that evening.

Blanchette will be laid to rest at 1 p.m. Monday at the Old Holy Rosary Cemetery in Caribou.

Cross’ celebration of life is 11 a.m. Saturday at his high school, Telstar Regional High School in Bethel. After the memorial, a committal with full military honors will be held at the Riverside Cemetery on North Road in Bethel.

Advances in DNA technology have allowed the federal Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii to identify the remains of unknown soldiers from previous wars. In October 2016, the agency began exhuming remains from the Battle of Tarawa, a 76-hour conflict that occurred Nov. 20-23, 1943, in the Gilbert Islands, which are located between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii. Blanchette’s remains were identified in July.

Cross, who graduated from high school in 2009 and from the Virginia Military Institute in 2013, was an Osprey pilot assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, nicknamed “The Dragons.”

His squad was training with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Okinawa, Japan, on Aug. 5, when the MV-22 Osprey he was riding in crashed into a Navy amphibious transport dock, and then sank into the deep water of the Coral Sea. Twenty-three Marines aboard the Osprey, a large hybrid helicopter-airplane, were rescued, but Cross’ body was not recovered until Aug. 25.

“Ben lived his life with an unparalleled vigor, putting his heart and soul into all he did,” his obituary states. “His integrity and moral character were second to none. He touched the lives of so many, leaving a legacy of compassion, honesty, and loyalty that will carry on forever. He will be missed immensely by countless family members, friends, and the Bethel community.”

 


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