The nonprofit organization U.S. Expeditions and Explorations, or USX, works to shed light on the battle veterans experiencing PTSD face each day, and has assembled a team of active duty soldiers that are about to climb Mount Everest.
One hot summer day, Diggy Gillespie—a 9-year-old with Down syndrome—went with his mother, Shay, and his older brother to downtown St. Louis to hand out snacks and water to the homeless. Two police officers accompanied them to keep order during the giveaway. According to Shay, people are usually drawn to Diggy. But on this day, Diggy was drawn to Officer Chad Cross.
“My tattoos were showing at the time cause it was hot,” sais Cross. “And he came up and kind of rubbed on them, I guess thinking they were going to rub off and his mom explained to him they were tattoos and he kind of looked at my gun.”
When their day together was over, Cross went to his car to retrieve something for Diggy.
“And he has this watch in hand. And I had my camera, my phone in my hands…and so I just started recording, cause I didn’t know what he was doing,” Shay said.
After he spent spent eight years in the Marines and did three deployments, Cross gave Diggy the watch he wore while in Iraq.
“That watch meant a lot to me. You know it was special to me and that young man was special to me right away, so I wanted to do that for him,” Cross said.
Shay said Diggy was ecstatic: “It definitely impacted both of my kids and that’s what you want in life you know. You want things to impact them in a positive way.”
While Cross may look tough, being an MMA fighter and former Marine, what he really enjoys is getting to know the individual to give them a positive police experience. His friends even say they are not surprised by his gesture.
“I’ve known Chad for years,” Bryan Guidry said. “I know he did a tour in Iraq and part of his mission over there was winning over the hearts and minds of individuals and that is no different than some of his jobs everyday here on the streets of St. Louis.”
This piece is based on a story published by KDVR which can be seen here.
Mike Nickas received his Bachelor of Arts in Film and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University in December of 2015, and is currently pursuing his second BA at the University of South Florida in psychology with a minor in education. He is the former host of the online news show The Week in Neurodiversity. He also currently works for Dr. Mike Rizzo’s Child Provider Specialists in Weston, FL.