Most Inspiring Person of the Year 2004
Spc. Joseph Darby
Abu Ghraib whistle-blower
"It violated everything I personally believed in and all I'd been taught about the rules of war." -- Sergeant Joseph Darby
In January 2004, Sergeant Joseph Darby, a 24-year-old Army Reservist serving at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, had a crisis of conscience. What he did turned his world-and everyone else's-upside down. Darby is a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, the unit in charge of guarding prisoners at Abu Ghraib. When Darby learned of the abuse taking place against Iraqi prisoners, he was torn between loyalty to his fellow soldiers and horror that they seemed capable of torture.
Alone among the members of the 372nd, Darby brought evidence of the abuse-a CD-ROM containing hundreds of pictures-to his superiors. Those pictures became the basis for worldwide outrage, and the investigation which to date has resulted in the arrest of seven U.S. soldiers. Joe Darby grew up in Jenners, a small mining town in western Pennsylvania. During high school, he helped his family with the bills, working at a local Wendy's; after graduating, he became an auto mechanic. He also married Bernadette, his wife of six years. In 2001, the couple moved to Corriganville, Maryland, close to their families, and then to Cresaptown, Maryland-home to the 372nd. Like many Reservists, Darby enlisted to make a little extra money in exchange for one weekend a month and two weeks a year in training. Instead, Darby has spent most of the last three years on active duty, first in Bosnia, and then Iraq.
Darby's courage in exposing the abuse at Abu Ghraib has been honored by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. senators, and President Bush. but not everyone thinks he is a hero. Some vets blame Darby for breaking the chain of command and for "ratting out" his fellow soldiers.