PHOENIX — A veteran of the Cold War era works to remind people daily that thousands of troops are serving overseas protecting American rights to vote, assemble and speak freely.
Diana Pike is more aware than most of this fact. Her father served in the Navy and she signed enlisted in the Army in 1975.
“Technically, the end of the Vietnam War,” she said. “I was delayed entry, so I just missed that.”
She was working in occupied Berlin prior to President Ronald Reagan ordered Soviet Union leader Michael Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!”
Stateside, she worked her way into cryptology, studying and writing codes for the National Security Administration and retired just before the war in Kuwait in 1988. She essentially served our country, “the entire Cold War era before I separated from the Army.”
Her only son was naturally drawn to serve as well.
“He joined before Sept. 11, also in signals intelligence — learning radio direction finding, how to find signals.”
In the Iraq conflict, he was technically a member of the Navy, but wore a Marine uniform while running and repairing the equipment that found improvised explosive devices.
“He said he kept his Marines safe,” she read from an entry in his journal just before he was transferred to serve on the Navy’s SEAL Team 5.
Fifteen years later, Diana is stretching out a massive aluminum frame with an equally large fabric backdrop.
“This is a Remembering Our Fallen Exhibit,” she said. The segment is just a portion of the travelling wall displaying pictures and notes of Arizonans lost while serving our country.
She points to a square with a photo of a Marine.
“Sgt. Jonathan Davis from Kayenta, Arizona,” she read aloud. “He died in combat Feb. 22, 2013.”
She continued on to to two other frames and stopped.
“That’s Chief Christian Pike,” she took a deep breath. “He’s my son.”
Besides being a Cold War veteran, Diana Pike is also a Gold Star Mom, a sacred member of the military who has lost a son or daughter serving in an American conflict.
When Christian died, he was 31 years old. He was on a mission in Afghanistan with the SEALs.
“It was March in 2013,” Diana remembered every detail. “The young man that was supposed to be on the mission that day was ill, so Christian volunteered to go in his place.”
Stuck in a stalemate on top of a roof, Christian and his team battled sniper fire for 10 hours.
“And, when he died,” Diana paused, “He was standing up, returning fire.”
She collected her thoughts, “He wasn’t really afraid of anything.”
Her voiced cracked as she stared at the Remembering Our Fallen display.
“When I look at this display, so beautiful, and so reverent with all of Arizona’s sons and daughters, I realize I’m not the only Gold Star Mom, there are lots of us, there’s over a thousand of us.”
Bravery exists beyond the battlefield, she explained.
“Parents that survive after their children do not live on with courage.”
She looked over the trellis of military faces lost before collapsing it.
“Taking this exhibit around the state helps me share that same grief the parents of these children suffer.”
Pike admitted she has her good and bad days.
“I still cry all the time about it, because I’m missing my son… but, you’ve got to stand up.”
As a member of a long line of military vets, she refuses to give up serving her country.
“That’s who I am!”
KTAR will honor each grand marshal of the upcoming Veterans Day parade during our Profiles in Courage series.
- Nations search for 10 missing sailors after USS John S. McCain collision
- US Navy says bodies of sailors found on ship after crash near Japan
- Navy fires 2 ship commanders for not following procedures
- North Korea: New long-range missile can carry heavy nuke
- Deciding next step in Afghanistan comes with grim backdrop