EXCLUSIVE: Family addresses mystery surrounding soldier's death

Jesse Saldana, Art's uncle, speaks out.

An American flag helps make up a cross that sits outside Private Art Cantu's San Carlos home along 85th Street. It's a symbolic memorial for the Army war veteran who died suddenly in his bunk last Tuesday at Fort Lewis in Washington. The soldier died at age 23.The news has devastated his family."Because I saw him grow up... I saw Artie grow up from a baby to a young man," Jesse Saldana, Art's uncle said. "And that's the hard part." The circumstances surrounding the soldier's death remain a mystery.Art's uncle and grandmother hope pending autopsy results will bring them closure."It broke her heart," Otila Saldana said while crying. "My grandson's death crushed my soul."Jesse doesn TMt believe his nephew had any underlying medical condition."Things happen in life and it doesn't matter if you TMre military or what age... I guess when your time comes it comes man," Jesse said. The 2010 Economedes High School graduate enlisted in the military shortly after school, according to his family. They haven't seen him since January when he was on leave following a tour in Afghanistan.Relatives who live across the street from Art lowered their flag to half staff."He was a great kid and he was no quitter," Jesse said. "He loved his country."Hundreds of people are turning to a Facebook page in memory of Art where friends tag pictures with him and fellow soldiers swap stories. America's Last Patrol is also honoring the late war veteran with a ceremony typically reserved for soldiers who are killed in action. "We're going to step up and we're going to do the flag-raising for him just like a KIA," Commander Ricardo Pena said. "That's what we're here for and we're going to help out the veteran as much as we can." Community support is all the family is asking for as they wait for Art's body to return home.The military has told them it could be as early as Thursday.Funeral arrangements have not yet been set.

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