As U.S. military deaths in Iraq (search) approached 2,000 on Tuesday, the chief spokesman for the American-led multinational force called on reporters covering the conflict not to look at the event as a milestone.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the force's combined press center, described the number as an "artificial mark on the wall."
"I ask that when you report on the events, take a moment to think about the effects on the families and those serving in Iraq," Boylan said in an e-mail. "The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom (search) is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives."
The U.S. military announced a wounded soldier died Tuesday, bringing the number of American service members killed since the war started in 2003 to 2,000, according to an Associated Press count.
"The 2,000th Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine that is killed in action is just as important as the first that died and will be just as important as the last to die in this war against terrorism and to ensure freedom for a people who have not known freedom in over two generations," Boylan wrote.
He complained that the true milestones of the war were "rarely covered or discussed," and said they included the troops who had volunteered to serve, the families of those that have been deployed for a year or more, and the Iraqis who have sought at great risk to restore normalcy to their country.
Boylan said they included Iraqis who sought to join the security forces and had became daily targets for insurgent attacks at recruiting centers, those who turned out to vote in the constitutional referendum, and those who chose to risk their lives by joining the government.
"Celebrate the daily milestones, the accomplishments they have secured and look to the future of a free and democratic Iraq and to the day that all of our troops return home to the heroes welcome they deserve," Boylan wrote.