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Time Magazine Selects American Soldier as Person of the Year

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2003 – Three 1st Armored Division soldiers -- Sgt. Ronald Buxton, Spc. Billie Grimes and Sgt. Marquette Whiteside -- grace the cover of today's Time magazine. They represent "The American Soldier" - all men and women in uniform - who have been chosen as Time's 2003 Person of the Year.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The American Soldier, representing all men and women who wear the uniform, has been named Time magazine's Person of the Year. Three 1st Armored Division soldiers -- Sgt. Ronald Buxton, Spc. Billie Grimes and Sgt. Marquette Whiteside -- are featured on the magazine's Dec. 29 - Jan. 5 cover. Photo by James Nachtwey / VII for Time, used by permission.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

"For uncommon skills and service, for the choices each one of them has made and the ones still ahead, for the challenge of defending not only our freedoms but those barely stirring half a world away, the American soldier is Time's Person of the Year," editor-at-large Nancy Gibbs wrote in the opening essay of the magazine.

"By naming the American soldier as Person of the Year, we're using that term in its broadest sense, to stand for all of those in a U.S. uniform who go in harm's way, including the Navy's sailors, the airmen and women of the Air Force and the Marines," managing editor Jim Kelly wrote in a letter to readers.

The magazine cover is a "fitting tribute to these young men and women who have volunteered to serve their country and are over there doing a superb job," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" Dec. 21.

Time officials said the magazine's naming of a Person of the Year recognizes "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse."

The war in Iraq dominated the magazine's covers during the last year, said Mark Thompson, Washington correspondent for Time. In the October- November timeframe, he said, nominees included President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Thompson said the more Time officials talked about the cover, the more they realized that it should be the carpenter's tools and not the carpenter they honored, so they opted for the soldier.

"It's a grand choice," said Thompson, who has been in Afghanistan and flown over northern Iraq with U.S. troops.

The photo taken by James Nachtwey Dec 10, was shot a few hours before a grenade landed in the humvee he and Time reporter Michael Weisskopf were traveling in. Weisskopf lost his right hand when he attempted to throw the grenade from the vehicle. Natchtwey and two soldiers also were wounded in the attack. All are recovering from their injuries.

Time's tradition of naming a "Person of the Year" began in 1927 when the "Man of the Year" honor, as it was then called, went to Charles Lindbergh for his solo flight over the Atlantic. Since then the title has gone to individuals as well as the "Endangered Earth" (1989) and "The Computer" (1982).

This isn't the first time the magazine has chosen U.S. military members for its annual honor. "The American Fighting-Man" was Time's Man of the Year in 1950 as the Korean War was being fought. "The American fighting-man could not win this struggle without millions of allies and it was the unfinished (almost unstarted) business of his government to find and mobilize those allies. But the allies would never be found unless the American fighting-man first took his post and did his duty," Time wrote in its Jan. 1, 1951, edition.

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