BARROW COUNTY, Ga. - A Georgia Army National Guard soldier rushed home from Afghanistan this week after the sudden death of his 5-year-old daughter.
Gabriel Santos' daughter, Loriana, was diagnosed at birth with Dravet syndrome, which caused her to have seizures. She died unexpectedly on Feb. 9, according to friends of the family.
Now, Santos' fellow guardsmen have banded together to help the family, who lives in Augusta.
Channel 2's Berndt Petersen talked to a group of National Guardsmen in Barrow County who served with Santos for years.
Two brothers, Ryan and Jared Callaway, set up a GoFundMe account to help the family with Loriana's medical and funeral expenses.
Ryan Callaway told Petersen he met Santos 10 years ago.
"We deployed together. We were in recruiting together," Ryan said. "It's a family."
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Ryan is a retired member of the Army National Guard that is based at the Armory in Winder. He said this week, he got the heartbreaking email from his friend in Afghanistan.
"He sent me a message that simply said that he lost his daughter," Ryan said.
Even though Ryan is retired, he said the National Guard is a brotherhood that can never be broken.
"When you see a soldier that has a tragedy like this that has happened, everybody stands up," Ryan said. "And everybody says, 'What can we do?'"
Ryan's brother, Jared, is also a member of the Army National Guard. Like Ryan, Jared says his fellow guardsmen are family.
"Once you're out, you're never 'out.' There's always a part of me that's in this building," Jared said. "There's always a part of me that's with those guys overseas."
The brothers are hoping to encourage "citizen soldiers" all over the country to help their friend.
The GoFundMe account describes the sweet little girl family members called "Boogie."
"Loriana Santos, AKA Boogie, was a beautiful, happy, and inspiring little girl who brought joy into every life she touched. She loved and adored her siblings, mother and father. Her smile always warmed the hearts of family and friends. She was truly loved and cherished for all the joy and love she brought into our lives. Her memory will continue on, in the lessons she taught us about life and love."
You can donate to the campaign HERE.
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