The chance of a life­time

Af­ter an emo­tional visit to trek Kokoda, Greg Cross vowed to bring his sons back

The Morning Bulletin - - NEWS - Shayla Bul­loch Shayla.Bul­loch@cap­news.com.au

IT’S not ev­ery day you hitch a ride on a Her­cules to ex­pe­ri­ence the re­ward­ing pil­grim­age to Kokoda.

So when Greg Cross got the in­vi­ta­tion, he made sure his three sons could come along for the ride to see a cru­cial part of their fam­ily his­tory.

Greg’s first visit to Kokoda was in June to hon­our his grand­fa­ther who was a medic in the Sec­ond World War.

“I grew up at the end of my pop’s kitchen table lis­ten­ing to sto­ries of the war, so it’s al­ways been a part of me,” he said.

The man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of CQ Water Ser­vices joined the Kokoda Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion and ded­i­cated his time to re­pair­ing the cur­rent me­mo­ri­als and pre­par­ing for the bru­tal trek ahead.

Although he trained vig­or­ously to be ready for the un­for­giv­ing nine-hour hike, the stars aligned for Greg when the once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity arose to fly in a he­li­copter through the val­ley to the sum­mit.

Greg grasped at the op­por­tu­nity with both hands and com­pleted the trek in a mere seven min­utes.

“It was so sur­real to get this op­por­tu­nity to fly up the val­ley and see ev­ery­thing from the air,” he said.

The crew spent their time in­ter­act­ing with the lo­cals from the vil­lage and build­ing a special me­mo­rial ded­i­cated to the Aus­tralian medics with his pop al­ways in the back of Greg’s mind.

Greg said the eeri­ness of Sur­geon’s Rock loomed and he could feel the his­tory thick in the air.

“It was such a special mo­ment to be where a lot of sol­diers were op­er­ated on and prob­a­bly died on,” he said.

“It’s a great piece of Aus­tralian his­tory and hard to not get emo­tional think­ing about the things pop would have done.”

On their de­scent, Greg said he could feel his pop there with him and vowed to one day bring his boys back to ex­pe­ri­ence the rich­ness he had gained from the trip.

Af­ter hang­ing a photo of his late pop up in the mu­seum, he hoped gen­er­a­tions of fam­ily would come to that very spot and be able to re­flect on the fam­ily his­tory.

“I put it up hop­ing one day my kids would go back there and their kids would go back there and be able to pull that photo off and see their fam­ily name on the back,” he said.

“I just kept think­ing, ‘how cool would it be if I could bring my boys back here’.”

Three months later Greg re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to fly from Townsville to Port Moresby in a Royal Aus­tralian Air Force Her­cules air­craft.

He cheek­ily asked if he could bring his boys, Colby, Ri­ley and Zac, not ex­pect­ing the RAAF to ap­prove.

“No one gets this type of op­por­tu­nity,” he said.

“It’s a chance of a life­time to be able to hang out in the back of a Her­cules.”

Greg ex­plained he and his boys would be re­pair­ing some of the arches at the be­gin­ning of the trail.

The pas­sion­ate mu­si­cians were also tak­ing in­stru­ments and gui­tar strings to re­pair the vil­lagers’ bro­ken ones.

Given Greg’s water back­ground, he had also or­gan­ised to sup­ply all the nec­es­sary fit­tings and pipes to create an eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble source of water for the vil­lagers. “The vil­lagers did ev­ery­thing for us while I was over there so it’s only fair to give some­thing back,” he said.

The Cross fam­ily left to­day for a five-day trip to Pa­pua New Guinea and Greg said it wouldn’t be their last time back there.

“Now all that’s left to do is trek it,” he said.

❝I just kept think­ing, ‘how cool would it be if I could bring my boys back here’.

— Greg Cross

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

MAN ON A MIS­SION: Greg Cross on his way down the Kokoda trail.

PHOTO:CON­TRIB­UTED

FAM­ILY AF­FAIR: Ri­ley, Zac, Greg and Colby Cross will fly on an RAAF Her­cules to PNG to­day.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Bill Cross served as a medic in the ADF from 1941-1944.

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