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Tigard Marine comes home for Christmas

Zackery Cross returns to training in North Carolina after Christmas

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Returning Marine Zachery Cross surprises his sister Katie and brother Daniel at a basketball game at Fowler Middle School.It was expected to be a bittersweet Christmas in the Cross family this year.

Hanging from the Christmas tree in the living room is a photo Zackery Cross. dressed in uniform. Next to it is a camouflaged military cap and boots.

“We didn’t think he was coming home for Christmas,” said his sister Katie.

It’s been nearly a year since Katie and Daniel Cross have seen their brother, Zackery.

In February, they had said their goodbyes as their older brother, a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Marine Corps, left their Metzger home for combat training in California.

But the 20-year-old surprised his siblings last weekend, with an impromptu reunion on Dec. 19 at Fowler Middle School.

Katie, who coaches with the Tigard Basketball Association, was just about to start her game on Zackery's 20th birthday when he raced onto the court, grabbing his brother Daniel in a hug.

“Welcome home, Zack,” one man shouted from the bleachers as the stands erupted in applause.

It was a tearful, emotional moment, Katie Cross said.

“The first thing I told him was that he’s not supposed to make me cry at my own game,” she said.

He’ll spend Christmas at home with his family before returning to duty on Sunday.

“It means a lot,” Katie Cross said. “It’s so nice having him home.”

Since November, Cross has been stationed at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina.

The stands were filled with friends and family members, Daniel Cross said.

“Basically, everybody but us was in on it,” he laughed.

The Cross family has been involved with the Tigard Basketball Association for years. All of the Cross children played Cross’ parents, Steve and Bria, are members of the TBA board of directors.

“We have watched a lot of these kids grow up, they know us,” said Steve Cross. “A lot of parents and kids were there on Saturday just to support (Zackery). They didn’t have a game to go to, they just wanted to come out and support him.”

Zackery said that it’s tough being away from family and friends.

“Everybody has been really, really supportive,” he said. “Everybody knows what I’m doing and asks. They text me wanting to know where I’m at. People I’ve never talked to or heard of text me.”

Cross had been planning the surprise for weeks, he said. He’d gotten friends to help stage his surprise, but his travel plans kept falling through.

“We didn’t have his ticket until 10:30 that morning,” Bria said. “And he was on his way to the airport for a 5 o’clock flight that afternoon.”

Cross landed on Friday night and stayed with friends in order to keep out of sight before the big reveal, he said.

“We met him at the airport,” Steve Cross said, “Mom and Dad couldn’t wait until the next day. Knowing that he was here, we had to see him early.”

Bria Cross said that having her family together for the holidays is the best Christmas present she could hope for.

“Being able to have all the kids together is great,” she said. “Last Christmas we didn’t think he’d be here this year. We don’t know when he won’t get to come home.”

Editor's note: This story originally mispelled Zackery and Steve Cross' names. The Times regrets the error.