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Time honors ‘the American soldier’

Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2003 is actually many people — the 1.4 million men and women in the U.S. military, which invaded Iraq and captured Saddam Hussein.
Time Magazine's cover for the Dec. 29- Jan. 5 issue shows three American military personnel representing the "Anonymous American Soldier."Time via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2003 is actually many people — the 1.4 million men and women in the U.S. military, which invaded Iraq and captured deposed leader Saddam Hussein.

The troops were singled out as the top newsmakers of the year because “the very messy aftermath of the war made it clear that the mission had changed, that the mission had not been completed and that this would be a story that would be with us for months, if not years, to come,” Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly said Sunday.

The 2003 Person of the Year package, on newsstands Monday, features an artillery survey unit from the 1st Armored Division to tell the story of the American soldier.

The magazine’s cover shows three of them — Sgt. Marquette Whiteside, of Pine Bluff, Ark.; Sgt. Ronald Buxton, of Lake Ozark, Mo.; and Spc. Billie Grimes, of Lebanon, Ind., all members of Survey Platoon, Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion in the 1st Armored’s 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, based in Giessen, Germany.

The magazine glorifies the soldiers but not the Bush administration for putting them in Iraq, calling troops “the bright sharp instrument of a blunt policy,” and leaving it to scholars to debate “whether the Bush doctrine is the most muscular expression of national interest in a half-century.”

Buxton, one of those who graced the magazine’s cover, called his stepmother Sunday afternoon to discuss the big news. Though the connection was bad, it was clear the soldier was proud, Dana Buxton said.

“He felt it was an honor for the troops,” she said, “and he was very pleased the troops were being honored on the cover.”

The selection echoes 1950, the year the Korean War began, when the magazine’s editors picked the American GI for the cover, writing that “it was not a role the American had sought, either as an individual or as a nation. The U.S. fighting-man was not civilization’s crusader, but destiny’s draftee.”

Time magazine knows the risks that the soldiers face first hand. On the evening of Dec. 10, Time writer Michael Weisskopf’s right hand was blown off and photographer James Nachtwey was hit with shrapnel when a grenade landed on their humvee as the same soldiers honored by Time were stuck in Baghdad traffic.

Grimes, the platoon’s medic, treated the two journalists along with injured members of her unit. Weisskopf is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and Nachtwey is back in New York.

Kelly said Saddam Hussein was not considered for Person of the Year in 2003 because “he was on the losing side of this conflict,” and it was unclear how much he was leading the insurgency.

In 2001, then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was picked as Time’s Person of the Year for leading the city’s response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Last year, Time editors selected Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who wrote a scathing memo on FBI intelligence failures, and Cynthia Cooper and Sherron Watkins, who blew the whistle on corruption at corporate giants Enron and WorldCom.