I’m a soldier in the United States Army, and it’s not common for me to attend a ceremony of this kind, let alone be onstage. When I was in Iraq, I had a very difficult decision to make. And I could not have imagined that I would receive an award for those actions. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
I’d like to tell you a small story. When we first entered the country of Iraq, crossing from Kuwait to Iraq, there’s a half mile of no man’s land, a barren desert with no moving vehicles, no people, no life. As we crossed that, I can honestly tell you today that I could not remember why I had left my wife and my family. And I did not know what waited for me on the other side.
But a few weeks later in Hillah, I had an experience that changed that. Our patrol was approached by a small group of children. And a small, unbathed girl around seven in a one-piece dress came and tugged on my uniform and said, “Mister, give me food.”
As I looked into her eyes, my doubt evaporated. I knew why we were there and I knew that we had to be there. And I knew that while we were there, we represented something larger than ourselves. We represented our country, its values, its principles, its morals.
Six months later, I was faced with the toughest decision. On one hand, I had my morals and the morals of my country. On the other, I had my comrades, my brothers in arms.
Today, for the first time since I’ve returned home, I am able to stand here publicly and be proud of my decisions to put the values of my country and its reputation ahead of everything else.
I would like to thank my loving wife and family for never doubting my reasons and for enduring the hardships that unfortunately have come our way as a result of my decision. I’d like to thank the Kennedy Foundation, Senator and Caroline Kennedy for bestowing this award upon me.
I would like to thank General Carol Kennedy for the support and compassion that she’s offered me and my family in this time. And finally, I would like to thank Lieutenant Colonel Jim Richmond and Major Stephen Chung for the support and protection they offered my family in the hardest ordeal of our lives. You gentleman are the two finest officers I have ever served with.
And lastly, I’d like to thank God for giving me strength in my time of need. Thank you.
Remarks made by Sergeant Joseph Darby on accepting the 2005 Profile in Courage Award, May 16, 2005.