"I Just Couldn't Help But Cry," Sister of Slain San Jose Soldier

Santos was following in his father's footsteps

By George Kiriyama
|  Wednesday, Apr 10, 2013  |  Updated 3:19 PM PDT
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 Darlene Santos was home with her mother when two U.S. soldiers knocked on their Santa Clara apartment door and told her family that her brother, Spc. Delfin M. Santos Jr. of San Jose was dead. George Kiriyama reports.

Darlene Santos was home with her mother when two U.S. soldiers knocked on their Santa Clara apartment door and told her family that her brother, Spc. Delfin M. Santos Jr. of San Jose was dead. George Kiriyama reports.

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Darlene Santos was home with her mother when two U.S. soldiers knocked on their Santa Clara apartment door.

"When they said, 'You know, what we need to let you know, he's not OK.' I didn't know when they said that I didn't know what to do. I was in shock. I couldn't actually breathe. I was like 'No!,' " Santos said Tuesday as tears streamed down her face. "I couldn't help but cry."

The Santos family was in shock. They refused to believe it. The 24-year old Specialist Delfin Santos Jr. - the youngest of 17 children - died on Saturday when a car bomb exploded killing him and two fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

 
They had been escorting 25-year diplomat Anne Smedinghoff of Chicago to a new school in the Zabul province to deliver textbooks to school children. She also died, and was credited by Secretary of State John Kerry for embodying "everything that was right about our country."
 
Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward, 24, of Oak Ridge, Tenn.,Spc. Wilbel A. Robles-Santa, 25, of Juncos, Puerto Rico, and a doctor, were also killed in the attack.

The five deaths marked the deadliest day in Afghanistan since Aug. 16.

"It's different losing somebody like just dying just dying from a sickness. This is different. This is different. Somebody killed my brother," Santos said.

Santos was following in his father's footsteps. Delfin Sr. fought against the Japanese during World War II and was held as a prisoner of war in the Philippines. Delfin Jr.'s older sister, Madeleine, also joined the Army. She was inspired by her brother and father. Delfin Jr. and Madeleine served together in Iraq in 2008. His death has hit her hard.

"He was trying to help people. Trying to protect the diplomat. And which is good. I'm proud of him. Why did it have to be him?" Sgt. Madeleine Santos said.

The last time both sisters talked to their brother was two weeks ago on Skype. In that conversation, Santos told his sisters: "If something ever happened to me. Take care of Mom please," Darlene Santos said.

Two weeks later, their brother, their best friend, their hero was dead. Santos will now be laid to rest next to his father in the Philippines, next to the soldier he always wanted to be.  

"I won't have to worry about him being alone in his own grave," Madeline Santos said. "At least I know he's with my dad somewhere."

 
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