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Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Love never loses it way home"... Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin found.

Isn't this heartbreaking? I've been following this story for a while now... I still held out some hope that maybe they'd find him alive. Matt Maupin is a true hero and will never be forgotten.

After four long years, Staff Sgt. Maupin's remains finally found in Iraq

Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin's mother took a call from President Bush tonight extending his condolences after the Army identified the missing soldier's remains in Iraq.

Bush has met several times with the Maupins during the past four years and pledged to them that everything would be done to find out what had happened to their son after he was captured by insurgents on April 9, 2004.

Carolyn Maupin took the President's call on a cell phone at 9:45 p.m. behind the Yellow Ribbon Support Center in Batavia.

Carolyn Maupin's friend, June Izzi Bailey, said she was told the White House had just found out about the DNA match and called the family as quickly as possible.

Maupin's parents were notified earlier Sunday when a three-star general visited them and gave them the news, they said.

"Matt is coming home. He's completed his mission," his father, Keith Maupin, said.

Maupin was a 20-year-old specialist when he was captured on April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy was ambushed west of Baghdad. He had been driving a supply truck.

Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape a week later showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

That June, Al-Jazeera aired another tape purporting to show a U.S. soldier being shot. But the dark and grainy tape showed only the back of the victim's head and not the actual shooting.

The Glen Este High School graduate was the only U.S. military member still listed as missing-captured in Iraq.

Keith Maupin said that at about 1 p.m. Sunday, he and Matt's mother were visited by Major General David Huntoon Jr., the Army staff director, who said DNA tests had confirmed that remains found earlier in the week in Iraq were those of their son.

Keith Maupin said that in that conversation and in subsequent conversations with Army officers, the family was given no more information about the circumstances through which the remains were found.

"We don't know where, just somewhere in Iraq. They found a shirt similar to what he (Matt) was wearing," Keith Maupin said. "They had DNA and confirmed it was Matt.

“We’re still just waiting for more information,” he said.

Lt. Lee Packnett, an Army public affairs officer in Washington, confirmed that the Maupins were notified Sunday that their son's remains had been identified. Packnett said an official statement about the identification would be released Monday

Maupin thanked the thousands of people who supported the family during their four-year ordeal and wore yellow ribbons or displayed them on their homes, cars and businesses, hoping someday for Matt's return.

He also thanked the military for not giving up the search for his son. The Maupins lobbied hard for the Army to continue listing their son as missing-captured, fearing that another designation would undermine efforts to find him.

"We want to thank all the guys who searched for Matt," he said.

Matt Maupin graduated from Glen Este in 2001 and attended the University of Cincinnati for a year before joining the Army Reserves.

Remembering her son as an easy-spirited young man who went with the flow, Carolyn Maupin said she’d learned a simple lesson from her loss: “Enjoy each day you have.”

"It's going to be very difficult," she said. "If you stay by our side and support us, that would be great."

Flags will be placed at half-staff Monday at all county buildings, said Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud. He called Matt Mauplin “our native son, an American hero and an inspiration to all of us.”

Former Congressman Rob Portman, who represented Matt’s home district in Batavia, lobbied for the Maupin family, checking in with the defense officials daily to make sure they were doing all they could to bring the young soldier home.

Even as Matt’s parents came to grips with their own grief, Portman said, they were working to make sure their son did not die in vain.

“My heart goes out to the family,” Portman said Sunday night. “I’m just so impressed with how they’ve channeled their loss. They’ve been so focused on how to make sure their loss and their sacrifice helps others.”

“I think (Carolyn) always had hope that he would come home,” said Linda Bloom, a former West Clermont Local School Board member and longtime bus driver who now works with Carolyn Maupin. “I think we all did. Everybody had that hope in the back of their heads. We just didn’t want to see him come home, not like this.”

Bloom said her fellow workers plan to rally around the Maupins and step in when the family is ready for help or comfort.

“Carolyn knows that she’s in our prayers, and we’ll be there for whatever she wants us to do,” Bloom said

Dan Simmons, the athletic director at Glen Este, remembered Maupin Sunday as a quiet but hardworking backup player on the school's football team.

“Matt was a selfless kid on the football field,” Simmons said. “He did whatever the coaches told him. He wasn't a starter, but he made the other kids play harder.”

Keith Maupin recalled telling his son to do the best he could in every aspect of life.

Win, lose or draw, we’re gonna get something to eat,” Keith Maupin said he would tell Matt.

At a press conference Sunday afternoon, he ended that phrase, saying, “And that’s what we’re going to do.”