Georgia soldier comes home from Afghanistan after daughter’s sudden death

The 5-year-old daughter of a National Guard soldier died unexpectedly last weekend, and her father hurried home to Georgia from his deployment in Afghanistan, according to a news report.

Georgia National Guardsman Gabriel Santos lost his daughter Loriana on Feb. 9, reported WSB-TV in Atlanta. She died of a seizure stemming from Dravet syndrome, a rare, lifelong disease diagnosed within a child’s first year of life that causes frequent seizures.

After Loriana’s sudden death, her father rushed back to Augusta, Georgia, from his third deployment overseas.

A group of Santos’ fellow National Guardsmen have teamed up to help him and his family. Brothers Ryan and Jared Callaway started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Santos’ medical and funeral costs, among other expenses. As of the afternoon of Feb. 15, the Callaways had raised $14,000 for the Santos family.

“Loriana Santos, aka Boogie, was a beautiful, happy and inspiring little girl who brought joy into every life she touched,” Ryan wrote in the campaign’s description. “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.”

Ryan, an Army veteran, said he received an email from Santos earlier this week informing him of Loriana’s untimely passing.

"When you see a soldier that has a tragedy like this that has happened, everybody stands up," Ryan told WSB-TV. "And everybody says, 'What can we do?'"

He said that he and Santos were close from their time in the military.

”He’s like a brother to me,” Ryan said. “I’ve known him for 10 years. We deployed together, we were in recruiting together. It’s a family.”

Jared, a soldier, said what he and his brother are doing for Santos speaks to the ties that bind all service members together, especially in their times of need.

“Once you’re out, you’re never ‘out,’” he said. “There’s always a part of me that’s in this building. There’s always a part of me that’s with those guys overseas.”

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