Painting pays tribute to FOX 5 employee's son killed in Afghanistan

March 10 is a day that forever changed the life of one member of the FOX 5 family. Before she was a part of our team, Diana Pike served as a cryptologist in the Army for 13 years. Those were footsteps that her son, Christian, was eager to follow in.

Diana and Christian both made tremendous sacrifices to serve the country they love, and one day before the second anniversary of the day he was shot, both of them were honored in a very special way.

"It was always his dream to go into service," Diana said.

And when his dream became reality, Christian went into cryptology-- the same field his mom did, only she was in the Army, and he was in the Navy.

Diana says Christian was physically a really big man. He was very athletic-- both a body builder and a swimmer-- and his size helped him do do his job.

"It takes a lot of weight training to carry that kind of equipment. He could carry the equipment and he could also fix the equipment," she explained, adding that people rarely had the physical capability to do what Christian did.

When it came to his work, Diana thought Christian's job was safe. It was before the attacks of September 11. His job was interesting, and he got to travel a lot. During his career, Christian served on the Navy's special operations team in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Initially it didn't worry me. I think like a lot of Americans, the war has gone on and we go on with our lives, so there's this element of complacency I think," she said.

Even when he was stationed in Iraq, Diana says Christian still called and emailed her every week, staying in constant communication despite being in the war zone.

"It scared me when he went to Afghanistan," she said. "That's when I was actually-- that was when I was afraid for him, and I was trying not to be."

There, Christian's job was to find out where enemy forces were, and where they were coming from.

"Part of the danger with that is that he had to stand up to do it," she explained. "So in the line of fire, he had to stand up. He was returning fire, but he still had to stand up in order to do his job-- which is when he was shot."

Diana remembered getting the news that Sunday morning, March 10, 2013. At about 6 a.m., she says she got a call from Christian's commander, and she says she remembers sitting up in bed trying to process what she heard.

"They were in a compound, and there was a member on each roof. Christian was on the east roof. The battle started and somebody yelled, 'Pike is down.' His teammate then looked across the compound and saw Christian fall."

Christian was hit in the head, and Diana says the neurosurgeon said he died before he hit the ground.

"What I had worried about as a mom is that Christian was on that rooftop alone, thinking he was dying," she said. "And you know, as a mom, I just can't imagine my boy lying there alone."

"It brought the war right into our front yards. It brought it into our homes."

On December 18, 2013, Christian was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

"Having him gone is just...it's been really hard," Diana said. "We are still really close. I look at his pictures and I have the folded flag, and I just keep him in my heart."

Diana has worked with FOX Television Stations for 16 years, and she is currently the director of human resources for FOX 5 DC and My20. She shared her story with the audience when it happened, and she remembers the tremendous response she received from he friends and coworkers-- as well as people she didn't even know.

Graphic artist Jim Peters worked with Diana for years at FOX 10, KSAZ-TV in Phoenix, Arizona. They got to know each other well, and after Christian was killed, Diana remembers him reaching out to her asking what he could do to help.  

"I just called her up and said, "Diana, do you think it would be okay if I did a painting of your son?'" Jim remembers.

Diana sent Jim photos of Christian, and even some music that would help him understand who her son really was and what he liked. Jim put the piece together, and on Monday, he unveiled it to her live on FOX 5 News. Until that moment, she hadn't seen it, and had no idea what it would look like.

Jim tells us it's hard to describe how it feels to do a piece of this magnitude.

"I've always had an affinity for our military-- the sacrifice they've made. That is the ultimate," Jim explained. "To contribute to that in some way, that's giving back. That's what I want to do. Give back."

An important note: FOX 5 would like to thank Natalie Godwin and the staff at the UPS facility in Laurel, Md. for their tremendous effort in getting the portrait to our studio in time for broadcast. UPS workers off-loaded a truck that was delayed because of the snowstorm, and made a special delivery to our station. We appreciate a job well done.



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