For a Gold Star Family, Memorial Day is more than the beginning of summer and a fleeting note of appreciation for those willing to put their lives on line in service to our country. Unfortunately we know the depth of "the ultimate sacrifice." As a Gold Star mom, I want to know, "Did my son make a difference?" Two recent events give me a measure of assurance my son and his fallen comrades did not die in vain.
Most of you are family and close friends and know the details of my son's death. For those that did not know us four years ago, let me explain. In February 2012 my son was working with the Afgan National Police at the Afghanistan Interior Ministry as the chief plans advisor. He and a coworker, Major Robert Marchanti, were shot by a Taliban insurgent. The insurgent was able to escape the heavily guarded Interior Ministry complex. Thinking he probably found refuge in Pakistan, we had no anticipation that he would be apprehended.
The last time I saw my son, he was on a 2-week leave about 3 months before his tour in Afghanistan was to end. During that visit I asked him, in his opinion, were we making a difference? He said there were pockets of hope.
A few weeks ago we received word that the murder suspect had been apprehended, not by the U.S. Military, but by the Afghanistan National Police. From what we were told, my son had worked alongside the general of the Afghan National Police and they had become friends. Apparently the general was not going to allow this murder to go unresolved. General Solongie and the Afghan security officers never gave up the search. The fact that the general and the Afghan National Police were determined to seek justice gives me reason to believe my son's efforts were appreciated. It gives me hope that my son and his fallen comrades made a positive impact in the Afghan security forces.
In a note left for his daughters before his first deployment, my son explained his reason for volunteering to go to Afghanistan. One of the things he mentioned was the need for Afghans to educate their children. As his wife, Holly, said in a 2013 interview, “He knew education opens doors and minds and that is the key to people understanding each other.” Darin believed that education is a major key in the stabilization of Afghanistan. The recent release of We are Afghan Women; Voices of Hope by the George W. Bush Institute gave me another reason for hope. Women in Afghanistan are taking huge risks to claim their education and economic rights. The international security forces have made it possible for them to attend school and start businesses. While it remains a struggle, progress is being made. Reading this book I saw pockets of hope for the Afghan women.
This Memorial Day weekend, Captain and I were honored to attend the annual AfPak Hands' Wreath Laying Ceremony in Arlington Cemetery.
With tears in our eyes, we watched our granddaughter play taps at her father's grave.
My tears were a mixture of sadness for our granddaughter, grief for the loss of my son, pride for his accomplishments and gratitude for the Afghans that cared enough to seek justice. I have to believe that out of those pockets, progress is being made.
Mother of Lt Col J. Darin Loftis
To read more about Darin's story, follow the links on the J.DarinLoftis Memorial Scholarship website.
Update, in October, Abdul Saboor was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. We were told, given the typical life expectancy for men in Afghanistan, at age 32 this is pretty much a life sentence. He lost an appeal in the Afghanistan Appeal Court earlier this month. Apparently he still as the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court (it is a somewhat complicated legal system.)