by Alison Loftis, surviving daughter of Air Force Lt Col J. Darin Loftis
Empowerment through education. This is both a mission of The Special Operations Warrior Foundation and a principle that has been instilled in me since I was young. My dad, Air Force Lt Col J. Darin Loftis, lived by this, and he made it his mission to see that others could do the same. Over the more than 16 years of his Air Force career, my dad earned three master’s degrees, learned several languages, and still made time to spend at home with his family. Growing up I was so proud of him; my dad was my biggest role model, always encouraging me to try my best at everything I did. In a letter my father wrote to my sister Camille and me about deploying to Afghanistan, he said, “I don’t want to sit around wondering if I could help their children go to school, their sick people get better, or their poor people have a better life.”
On February 25th, 2012, my dad was killed while on his second deployment to Afghanistan. In an instant, my family’s lives changed forever. I was 13 years old at the time, and my sister was 10. I won’t say that things always happen for a reason, because they don’t. In times of tragedy, however, we can also experience blessings greater than we ever thought possible. With my dad’s death, our family lost its main source of income. My mom was thrust into being a single parent with no forewarning, trying to raise her two daughters on her own. She and my dad had always wanted my sister and me to go to college. Special Operations Warrior Foundation brought her the peace of mind that my little sister and I would be able to attend any university to which we were accepted and allow us to graduate debt-free. This took a huge burden off her shoulders, and it has been an immense blessing to our family.
In December 2021, I will graduate from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with University Honors and bachelor’s degrees in both marine biology and music. None of this would have been possible without the support of SOWF. Additionally, because of SOWF, I had the opportunity to study abroad in the Galápagos Islands for my final semester of college. I was able to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams and I will always carry that experience with me in life.
Before my dad left for his second (and final) year-long deployment, he wrote my sister and me letters to read on our birthdays in the future. The last letter he wrote was for my 16th birthday, and in it is a quote I will forever try to live by: “How you choose to apply your talents and responsibilities is your choice. All I ask is that you apply them to something greater than yourself.” Though my father will not be there physically at my graduation in December, I know that he would be very proud of me, and I am extremely grateful to SOWF to be able to carry on his legacy.
View a gallery of photos of Alison, her father Air Force Lt Col J. Darin Loftis, and her family that Alison has shared with SOWF below.