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Loftis remembered: 'Afghanistan lost its best friend'

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- A funeral service was held here Monday for Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis, who died Feb. 25 from wounds received during an attack at the Interior Ministry, Kabul, Afghanistan.

The solemn service was attended by approximately 250 of Loftis's family, friends and Airmen from across the Air Force. Among his family, his brother-in-law, Rev. Dr. Brian Brewer, gave the pastoral 'message of hope.'

"My favorite picture of Darin was taken in Afghanistan in 2009," Brewer said. "In this iconic photograph, it is illustrative of an attitude, a service, of which he lived his whole life. That picture is quintessential J.D. An armed trooper makes himself vulnerable, a soldier of arms among admiring children with outstretched arms. It is representative of the ideal...an emblematic snapshot of Darin's life."

Loftis lived his life with outstretched arms. As a college student, he worked with the homeless in Nashville; in the Peace Corps, he lived alongside the Duna tribesmen of the 'bush' in Papua New Guinea; and he broke down cultural barriers by speaking Pashto fluently, drinking tea with village elders and even attending a traditional wedding in Afghanistan.

His outstretched arms however, were always filled with his two beloved daughters when at home. While helping his oldest with her math homework, he explained least common denominators as a problem where the solution is to find a common language between them. That summarized his life's work - finding a common language to build trust and unity.

In Afghanistan, building trust was his ultimate goal and mission, according to his family.

"Darin was serving humanity through military service," Brewer said. "The Afghan who shot him grossly misunderstood Darin's mission. As an officer told me, 'Afghanistan lost its best friend.'"

Loftis was deployed in support of OPERATION Enduring Freedom, working as the chief plans advisor for the International Security Assistance Force, in an industrious program called AfPak Hands. In that role, Loftis advised and mentored top Afghan National Police officials in their native language of Pashto.

"Recognized for his superior language and cultural skills...Colonel Loftis guided the security planning for more than 20 major national events," according to his Bronze Star Medal first oak leaf cluster citation.

Most notably, he guided security planning for the reopening of Kabul's largest stadium complex where Afghan President Karzai held his "Loya Jirga" or Grand Assembly. This single event demonstrated the ability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to safeguard its citizens and 2,000 senior leaders.

He also traveled to remote corners of the country where he assessed and prepared Afghan districts for transition from coalition to ANP security.

According to the citation, "his courageous efforts directly contributed to the successful transition of 45 districts to Afghan control, proving to the international community governance, security, and peace can be achieved."

Loftis genuinely believed peace was built with understanding and solidarity, his brother-in-law said.

Loftis leaves behind an exemplary example to his children of a life of service and sacrifice. Long before he made the ultimate sacrifice though, he recognized his family's support. In one of his masters' theses, he wrote of gratitude to his family, which Brewer read aloud.

"Finally, many of the burdens of this research were borne by my patient family," then-Captain Loftis wrote. "A disproportionate share of the household affairs fell upon my lovely wife during this demanding time, and I owe you much gratitude. And to my toddler who became a preschooler and my infant who became a toddler during this time--Daddy's home now!"

Brewer referenced the family's faith and spoke personally to them, "this is not the end."

"We know Darin's sacrifice was not in vain. For in dangers, in toils and in snares, we have already come," Brewer said. "J.D. has finished his final mission. He served his country well, served his fellow man well and served his eternal God very well."

As the service came to a close, in a final roll call, his U.S. Air Force Special Operations School division lead, Lt. Col. Jim Piel, called out with genuine emotion, "Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis, killed in action, Feb. 25, 2012." Then with full military honors, a 21-gun salute fired outside the chapel doors, followed by the bugle playing of "Taps." As the family walked out into the bright sun, a flyover of a MC-130P met them overhead.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the USO (http://www.uso.org/donate/), Fisher House (http://www.fisherhouse.org/donate/) and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (http://www.specialops.org/?page=Make_A_Donation). To donate to the Lt. Col. Darin Loftis Memorial Fund, send donations to the Austin Bank at P.O. Box 951, Jacksonville, Texas, 75766.

Loftis was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal first oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal first oak leaf cluster and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.