BAGHDAD, Iraq – A U.S. Army sergeant died of wounds suffered in Iraq, the Pentagon announced Tuesday. The death — along with two others announced Tuesday — brought to 2,000 the number of U.S. military members who have died since the start of the Iraq conflict in 2003.
Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander, Jr., 34, of Killeen, Texas (search), died Saturday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, of wounds suffered Oct. 17, when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, the Defense Department said.
The announcement was made after Iraqi eluncheon at Bolling Air Force Base (search) in Washington. "No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead."
Earlier Tuesday, the military announced the deaths of two Marines in fighting with insurgents last week west of Baghdad (search). The Marines' names were not immediately made public.
The spokesman for the American-led multinational force called on news organizations not to look at the 2,000 death as a milestone in the conflict. Lt. Col. Steve Boylan described 2,000 figure 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 is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives."
Boylan said the 2,000th service member to die in Iraq "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."
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.