'He was my rock': Fallen hero's family gifted custom portrait after solider was killed in Afghanistan

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Army Sgt. James Johnston of Fort Hood was one of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan in June.

On Thursday, James' wife and mother went to the Fallen Warriors Gallery in west Harris County to see a portrait of their loved one.

"He was my rock. He was my everything," James' wife Krista said. "He learned the day before he deployed that he was going to be a father."

James' portrait was painted by artist Ken Pidgeon, whose mission was to commit to canvas the likeness of those who gave their lives to service the nation.

"I talk to the families," said Pidgeon. "I know their personalities and what their laughs are like."

When Krista and her mother-in-law, Meghan Billiot, saw the portrait, both women smiled.

Krista is due to give birth in November to a baby girl.

"James always wanted a little girl. The fact that he found that out before anything happened made it even more special," Krista said.

James enlisted in the Army when he was 18 years old, and was recently promoted to sergeant.

"He loved his job and he loved his community," Krista said. "He also had a passion for Hawaiian shirts that he would wear off-duty on Fridays."

As much strength and courage as he possessed, his wife and mother have their own. Rather than the tragedy of James never seeing the child he always wanted, Krista is calling it a blessing.

"He'll always be with me because of that," Krista said. "If I do anything to honor him, it will be the way that he could have walked through life. That's what I will do, and that's how his daughter will walk through life."

Krista says she's naming the baby Jamie, in honor of her father.

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