The body of Staff Sergeant Keith Maupin, the American soldier who was captured and murdered nearly four years ago, has finally been officially identified.
Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin’s parents vowed to never let the U.S. Army forget about finding their son. Their efforts included trips to the Pentagon and even meeting with President Bush, but they ended in disappointment Sunday: An Army general told them the remains of Maupin, a soldier who had been listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004, had been found.
“My heart sinks, but I know they can’t hurt him anymore,” Keith Maupin said after receiving word about the remains of his son, who went by Matt.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed sympathy to Maupin’s family. “This has been especially difficult for the Maupin family because of not knowing for almost exactly four years. So I want to extend my condolences,” Gates said, speaking to reporters aboard a flight to Denmark.
The Army didn’t say how or where in Iraq his son’s remains were discovered, only that the identification was made with DNA testing, Maupin said. A shirt similar to the one his son was wearing at the time of his disappearance was also found.
Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy, part of the Bartonville, Ill.-based 724th Transportation Company, was ambushed west of Baghdad. A week later, the Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape showing a stunned-looking Maupin wearing camouflage and a floppy desert hat, 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 execution.
The Maupins refused to believe their son was dead. They lobbied hard for the Army to continue listing him as missing-captured, fearing that another designation would undermine efforts to find him. The Pentagon agreed to give the Maupins regular briefings, and Bush met with them when he traveled to Cincinnati.
Keith Maupin said the Army told him soon after his son’s capture that there was only a 50 percent chance he would be found alive. He said he doesn’t hold the Army responsible for his son’s death, but that he did hold the Army responsible for bringing his son home. “I told them when we’d go up to the Pentagon, whether he walks off a plane or is carried off, you’re not going to leave him in Iraq like you did those guys in Vietnam,” Maupin said.
Four U.S. service members remain missing in Iraq: Capt. Michael Speicher, a Navy pilot, has been missing since the 1991 Persian Gulf War; Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie, a 41-year-old Iraqi-born reserve soldier from Ann Arbor, Mich., was abducted while visiting his Iraqi wife in October 2006 in Baghdad, and Pfc. Byron Fouty and Sgt. Alex Jimenez have been missing since May 12.