Master Sgt. Jason Cross of Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop H poses next to a patrol vehicle Thursday at the troop’s headquarters on North Belt Highway. Cross is a second-generation trooper, following in the footsteps of his father, who joined Troop A in 1990.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol celebrated 90 years of service this month, a milestone that’s extra special for some local troopers who have ties to the agency that span generations.

Troop H Master Sgt. Jason Cross has been with the patrol since 2006, but his history with the agency extends as far back as 30 years. Cross’s father was assigned to the patrol’s Troop A in 1990 when Cross was just a first grader.

Cross said he had an interest in his father’s job from an early age, even if he didn’t fully comprehend it.

“I didn’t know really what he was doing,” he said. “I just thought he was a police officer. It wasn’t until later in life when I actually learned the difference between police department, sheriff’s department and highway patrol.”

A turning point cementing Cross’ desire to become a trooper was when he was a child and his family was involved in a crash with a drunk driver. His sister and mother suffered life-threatening injuries in the accident.

“That’s what drew me to law enforcement and doing this because that was my passion,” he said. “That’s still my passion today, is to take intoxicated people off the roadways.”

Carrying on the legacy that was started nearly a century ago is an inspiring feeling all on its own. While some standards have had to modernize to match the era, it’s important to maintain what was established over the decades, Cross said.

“It’s interesting to see a lot of the things that started in 1931 are probably still here 90 years later,” he said. “Our organization is slow to change. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad, but some traditions that started in 1931 are good, and I’d like to see them continue.”

One place Cross has seen an evolution over the years is the supplies troopers carry on their belts. His father used to only have a few items, including a firearm, but the number of items has grown over time, Cross said.

“They had minimal stuff on their belt,” he said. “Everything on the belt had to be in an exact, specific location. Over the years we’ve added things, whether it’s a taser, flashlight (or) tourniquet holders. So a lot of this uniformity and these small items, we’re just adding so much stuff to our belt.”

Cross’s 6-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter both have shown interest in pursuing law enforcement, but Cross said he takes that with a grain of salt because what they want to do can change from veterinary work one day to agriculture the next.

Alex Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @np_simone.

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