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Time names US soldier as 'Person of the Year'
( 2003-12-22 10:56) (Agencies)

"The American Soldier" was named on Sunday as Time magazine Person of the Year, giving credit not to those who formulate the foreign policies of the United States but those who face bullets and grenades as they execute those policies.

There was little disagreement in Time's newsroom that the U.S.-led war in Iraq was 2003's top story, Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly told Reuters. But he said there was a spirited debate about who would best represent that story as Person of the Year.

The Time Magazine's front cover featuring U.S. soldiers photographed in Baghdad. 'The American Soldier' has been named Time magazine's 'Person of the Year'. [Reuters] 
The American soldier was represented on the cover of Time by three helmeted and uniformed soldiers from an artillery survey unit of the US. Army's 1st Armored Division nicknamed the "Tomb Raiders" after being assigned the task of searching for weapons in a Baghdad cemetery.

The three were named as Sgt. Marquette Whiteside, 24 from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, SPC. Billie Grimes, 26, from Lebanon, Indiana, a medic and the only female soldier in the unit, and Sgt. Ronald Buxton, 32, from Lake Ozark, Missouri.

U.S. President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were candidates, but "the very messy aftermath of the war has made it clear that Washington's policy was going to have to be carried out day by day by the soldiers on the ground," Kelly said.

"We thought the title belonged to those people."

Time made a similar decision in 1950 when "The American Fighting-Man" got the title as the U.S. waged war in Korea.

In Washington, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the selection was "just exactly right."

Myers last week visited U.S. troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bahrain. "These folks look terrific. They understand the mission. They're confident in the mission," Myers told the "Fox News Sunday" program. "In many cases, it's the military that stands between the terrorists and their goal and they are doing a terrific job."

Kelly said Rumsfeld, in a November interview, made the unsolicited suggestion that this year's honor go to all men and women who wear the U.S. uniform.

"It was the first time that I had ever interviewed a contender for Person of the Year who actually suggested someone else," Kelly said.

Veteran Time War photographer James Nachtwey, who took Time's front cover picture, was wounded shortly after taking the shot when a grenade was thrown into the Humvee he was traveling in. He is recovering from his injuries.

Internationally, the U.S. war in Iraq has been criticized as unilateral aggression. France, Germany and other traditional U.S. allies have refused to participate in the war or the conflict that has continued since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fell.

Bush calls the war part of a move toward democracy in the Middle East. But many Arabs view the Iraq invasion as carried out to serve the interests of Washington's ally Israel.

In agreement with the Bush administration, Time's cover story says: "To have pulled Saddam Hussein from his hole in the ground brings the possibility of pulling an entire country out of the dark."

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