A legendary Army Ranger has been named this year's honorary sergeant major of the Army.

Retired Lt. Gen. David Grange Jr. will be honored Oct. 3 during the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"I was flabbergasted," Grange said about being told he'd been selected for the title. "I was so honored that I broke into tears."

The honorary SMA title was born when Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey wanted to honor an individual who had demonstrated lifelong support and commitment to the NCO corps, the Army, soldiers and their families.

The title will be bestowed once a year and only with the approval of three acting or former SMAs.

The honorary SMA title was first awarded last year, to retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff and recently retired president of AUSA.

Grange is the perfect choice for the title, Dailey said.

"General Grange is an absolute true image of what the honorary sergeant major is all about, and that’s a lifelong commitment to soldiers," he said. "That’s how you earn this award, and that’s why he’s 100 percent the most qualified person."

Grange said the recognition "means an awful lot to me."

"I spent a lot of time around soldiers and around the Army, and I just think it’s a great honor," he said. "It’s one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received."

Retired Lt. Gen. David Grange Jr., left, is this year's honorary sergeant major of the Army. Grange will be recognized at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Here, he greets competitors and spectators at the start of the 2014 Best Ranger Competition, an event that bears his name.

Photo Credit: James R. Dillard/Army

An enlisted man himself for seven years before receiving his commission, Grange said he understands how important and valuable soldiers are.

"I’ve seen so many great soldiers and knew so many, been around them," Grange said. "I always try to do my best to take care of them."

Grange said he’s looking forward to attending the AUSA annual meeting.

"That’s just really neat," he said. "It’s overwhelming."

Grange, who has been inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame, is a veteran of 20 campaigns in three wars as an infantryman, according to his bio on the Best Ranger Competition website.

He enlisted in the Army in June 1942 and served as a parachute infantryman in Europe, participating in the Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe campaigns of World War II.

David E Grange

Photo Credit: Army via Wikimedia Commons

In 1950, Grange was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served in Korea with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment and later in Vietnam as an advisor to the Defense Department’s Research and Development Field Unit.

Grange returned to Vietnam twice more, once as commander of the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, and later as commander of the 101st Support Command and 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

Grange served as director of the Ranger Department and later commanded the 2nd Infantry Division, the U.S. Army Infantry Center, and 6th U.S. Army.

The Best Ranger Competition, one of the most grueling and elite competitions in the military, is named after him (its full name being the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition).

Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.

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