Remembering a man of devotion — Laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ken Crosby Sr. lived a life of service
United States Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Jeffrey Dane Schlenz stood in the cold Virginia air Jan. 24 to speak at the funeral service of Chaplain (Lt. Col.) George Kenneth “Ken” Crosby Sr. and address the family and other mourners gathered.
“Since the Civil War, our nation has honored her fallen patriots here at Arlington National Cemetery,” Schlenz began. “These hallowed stones and granite walls are solemn memorials to the men and women who answered the call of their country. Each gave of themselves for the sake of freedom. Some paid the ultimate price. Some served many years, others served but a few, but all served that this nation might always be free. Today, we have come into this garden of stone to honor Chaplain Lt. Col. George Kenneth Crosby Sr. for his distinguished service to our nation.”
After 26 years in the military, and a lifetime as father and grandfather, Crosby’s children and grandchildren saw “Papa” laid to rest in a place of distinction for national heroes.
Crosby was born Nov. 25, 1931, to George Louis Crosby and Jessie Harrison Crosby Case. He graduated from Monticello High School, where he played football and basketball. Upon graduation in 1950, he won a scholarship to Copiah-Lincoln Junior College. He went on from there to graduate from Mississippi College in 1954 and then from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1957 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He also earned a Master of Divinity degree from the seminary in 1973. He sang in the choirs of each school.
While in seminary, he served as pastor to two half-time churches in Lawrence County, Oma and Rockport Baptist churches, and occasionally preached as a USAF Reserve chaplain on bases throughout the South.
Crosby went on to complete Officer Training School for new Air Force chaplains while attending Chaplain and Legal Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas. Upon completion in 1960, he received his first assignment to Sheppard AFB, Texas.
His subsequent tours included Stewart AFB in upstate NY, Vietnam, Luke AFB in Arizona, Ankara Air Station in Turkey, Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Hickam AFB in Hawaii, McGuire AFB in New Jersey and Little Rock AFB in Arkansas. He achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring from the military in 1983.
At that time he returned to his hometown of Sontag, to farm the land he loved and to pastor Brookway Baptist Church in Brookhaven until he retired from the full-time pastorate.
His military career was distinguished by numerous medals, including the Bronze Star Medal — received as a result of “distinguishing himself by meritorious service as Protestant Chaplain, Office of the Installation Chaplain, 31st Combat Support Group, Tuy Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam from 10 October 1966 to 15 August 1967.”
During that time, Crosby — “under most difficult circumstances,” according to the commendation — began and developed a Protestant religious and moral education program for combat personnel. Crosby also was responsible for the building of a six-room school for Vietnamese children. The medal commendation reads, “He either did it himself or arranged for hauling over 1,200 loads of dirt fill on which to build a school, also the salvaging and delivery of over 200,000 pounds of loose cement for the building of this school and other Civic Action projects, as well as 125 loads of salvaged and scrap lumber and 328 yards of sand and 285 yards of gravel for cement. As a result of his efforts, a modern six-room school was built for the children of Vietnam. An addition has been added to the local Evangelical Protestant Church to accommodate the influx of refugees into the city of Tuy Hoa, and the church has been remodeled throughout. He had the pastor’s home enlarged and completely remodeled. He also arranged for the transfer of over $30,000 in funds and distributed food, clothing and other essential items for the building of the school and to refugee centers and local orphanages. Giving generously of his time and talents in these pursuits, he has won the admiration and the respect of the local Vietnamese people.”
“Chap” Crosby also baptized dozens of servicemen in the South China Sea while in Vietnam.
During his service in Turkey, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster in part for providing a hospital ministry, counseling and adult education program for the entire command at Ankara.
His other decorations included the Air Force Commendation Medal; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars; Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with four oak leaf clusters; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; Armed Forces Honor Medal First Class; the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Device and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
A decorated veteran, honorably discharged for retirement, Crosby qualified for full honors burial at the national cemetery. After he died July 2, 2017, at age 85, Crosby’s family requested the burial and was approved within a couple of weeks. After a long period the family described as “worth every bit of the wait,” Crosby was afforded the service at the nation’s most famous memorial garden.
The service at Arlington included a horse-drawn caisson procession, and eight-man body bearer team, marching band, marching troop escort, chaplain, four-man color guard, and the Arlington Lady — representing the USAF Chief of Staff — and her escort. A bugler played taps, a 21-gun salute was offered, a folded flag was presented to the family and Chaplain Schlenz offered a final salute.
“Our father served his country well, and it was a privilege for both him and his family to have the opportunity to lay him to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors,” said his children, George Kenneth Crosby Jr. and Terri Crosby Pogue, in a written statement. “It is such a special place. (His grandchildren) were deeply moved by the ceremony for their Papa and … will be diligent to pass down the legacy of their Papa to the generations yet to come. When we visit, we feel humbled and blessed to be able to go to an amazing place like ANC that honors our loved one and our nation’s military in such an unparalleled way.”
“He was a very hard worker,” said Pogue. “Whatever he did, he did well.”
It’s what comes to her mind first about her father.
“He was very devoted. He had a goal in mind and was very devoted to his work and his family, and he excelled in what he did,” she said.
For that excellence in the military, ministry and at home, Crosby is remembered fondly — and with gratitude and respect — this Memorial Day.