2,500th U.S. Military Death Prompts Bells, Prayers

WASHINGTON – Christians across the nation vowed to ring bells in honor of the American dead, as the Pentagon announced today that the 2,500th U.S. military volunteer was killed in the Iraq War.

"The bells will toll as a call to prayer," said Vince Isner, director of Faithful America. "They will toll as a tribute to the fallen and as a plea to the U.S. government to stop this war."

Faithful America is leading the bell-ringing effort together with Democracy Rising – an anti-war organization founded by presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

"The U.S. corporate and military forces will end up pulling out of Iraq," Nader said. "The question is – when? Months? Years? Decades? After how many more preventable deaths, debilitating injuries and diseases? After how much destruction? That's up to us. Together we can end the occupation and bring the troops home safely."

Thousands of people will be ringing bells, especially in their houses of worship, to honor the dead by next week’s end.

"This is a tragedy that shouldn't have happened," said National Council of Churches’ General Secretary Bob Edgar. "These young men and women who paid the ultimate price of their government's call to arms will be mourned by everyone. And across America, tens of thousands – mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, children and friends – bear a burden of grief we can scarcely imagine."

The Pentagon also said 18,490 U.S. troops have been wounded in the war, which began in March 2003 with a U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein’s repressive regime.

The news of the milestone deaths came after a senior Iraqi official in Baghdad said security forces there had seized al Qaeda documents giving key information about the terrorist group’s network.

"We believe this is the beginning of the end of al Qaeda in Iraq," national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told a televised news conference in the Iraqi capital.