By EDWARD MARLOWE
Staff Writer, Murray Ledger and Times, Murray, KY
Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis, or “Ehsaan” as he was known in Afghanistan, always hoped to give back to local education.
A member of the United States Air Force and 1986 graduating class of Calloway County High School, Loftis was nearing the end of his second tour in Afghanistan when he was killed on February 25, 2012, by an employee of the Afghan National Police who worked at the Ministry of the Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Now two years later, members of Loftis’ high school class have collaborated efforts to make possible an endowed scholarship in his name, and on May 20 at CCHS Senior Awards Night, the first recipients of the scholarship – Marco O’Bryan and Courtney Martin – were named.
“It’s neat that this is what his classmates decided to do,” Loftis’ wife, Holly, said by phone late last week. “It is so appropriate. (Darin) was a good student and was always learning. He loved learning...he loved going to school.
“When the idea cam from his classmates, they approached us as a family, and we thought it would be wonderful.”
Fluent in the Afghan native languages of Pashto and Dari, Loftis graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1990 with a degree in mechanical engineering before serving two years in the Peace Corps.
Following his stint in the Peace Corps, Loftis opted to join the United State Air Force in 1996, and by his first tour in Afghanistan in 2009, he had become a major serving in Special Operation Forces – tasked to work with provincial reconstruction teams to rebuild local governments.
According to Micah Garen of Four Corners Media and the New York Times, Loftis had not planned to return to Afghanistan, instead hoping to return home to his family and teaching position at Special Operations School on Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther, Florida.
However, in 2011, Loftis was personally recruited by USAF Chief of Staff Norton A. Schwartz to work with NATO forces at the Afghanistan Interior Ministry to organize a mentoring program for the Afghan military.
His Afghan name, “Ehsaan,” translates to “beholden under obligation” or “generous,” and so Loftis went, once telling his daughters “it’s an honorable sense of duty to help others.”
Loftis’ military and educational career inspired former CCHS classmates Jennifer Jarrett, Mark Thorn, Dana Cunningham and Tim Weatherford – as well as his mother, Chris Janne – to pursue the goal of building an endowment in his name.
“When the information was released that he had been killed, we all thought, ‘what could we do?’” Jarrett said by phone Thursday. “What would help us remember this person as our friend?”
A Facebook conversation between the ‘86 classmates generated ideas, but the concept of a scholarship rose above them all.
Loftis wore many hats and had friends from all corners in high school, and Jarrett said the process of all these people from different walks of life coming together to build this fund only spoke to the kind of person he was.
“The core of his high school friends all had different interests...sports, foreign language,” she said. “He crossed those lines, and he continued doing that as an adult.”
Originally hoping to provide one $1,000 scholarship to the CCHS graduating class of 2014, Weatherford and AT&T – where he is employed – matched funds to make two $1,000 scholarships possible.
The goal of the Class of ‘86 was to raise $30,000 in five years, solidifying the endowment and keeping Loftis’ memory alive. The scholarship will then be awarded to a CCHS seniors based on academic success, volunteering efforts throughout high school and the desire to study internationally upon entering college.
Donations to the scholarship fund can be made to Community Foundation of West Kentucky at P.O. Box 7, Paducah, Kentucky 42001, or online at www.cfwestky.orghttp://www.cfwestky.org/john-darin-loftis-scholarship-fund-donate-page.html.