The father of an Iowa National Guard soldier who is deployed in Afghanistan is organizing a prayer vigil for the troops this weekend at the state capitol. John Kelling of Johnston says the recent deaths of three Iowa Guard soldiers spurred him to organize the vigil.

“We need to have a prayer vigil, we need to be able to support our troops,” Kelling says, “not only our troops, but the families as well.” He says the families are struggling as the countdown continues toward the time when the soldiers will return home, and they wonder if every ring of the doorbell or if the phone rings,  if it will be bad news.

Sergeant Brent Maher of Honey Creek, Specialist Donald Nichols of Shell Rock, and Staff and Sergeant James Justice of Grimes, all died last month in Afghanistan. Kelling says conditions in Afghanistan have grown more dangerous and volatile. His own son, private Kristopher Kelling, had a close call recently when a roadside bomb struck the truck he and six other soldiers were in.

He says it was on the same stretch of road that specialist Nichols was killed on, and he says all the soldiers came out of the incident without any major casualties. Kelling says that incident was even more of an eye opener for him. He says most people want to pray for the troops and they may not know what to says or how, and this vigil gives people an opening to get things started.

Kelling says its a way to connect to a coworker who you may not have been close to, but they have been deployed, and you can pray for them. He says it could also be a boss or neighbor or someone you know, and doesn’t have to be a relative that is deployed.

Kelling says he chose to hold the vigil at the state capitol to make it a central point for everyone who wants to attend, as he says it’s not just a Des Moines only event, it is something for any of the soldiers around the state. Kelling says he hopes for a big turnout, but knows that “God is gonna deliver the ones that need to be there.”

Kelling started a blog after his son was deployed, and says he is also setting up a 24-hour calendar where people can pick out an hour to pray for the troops. Kelling says people can sign up for an hour block of time and tell where they are from and their connection to the soldiers. He says he’s had people from over 60 countries visit his blog, and he wants to find out the connection.

You can go to see his blog. The prayer vigil is at 2 p.m. Sunday on the west steps of the state capitol.