The chance of a lifetime
After an emotional visit to trek Kokoda, Greg Cross vowed to bring his sons back
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
MAN ON A MISSION: Greg Cross on his way down the Kokoda trail.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Riley, Zac, Greg and Colby Cross will fly on an RAAF Hercules to PNG today.
Bill Cross served as a medic in the ADF from 1941-1944.