Soldier comes home to pay respects to Maupin
When he heard the news, Command Master Sgt. Eric Hill wanted to come home from Iraq for a very simple and singular purpose -- to honor Staff Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin, whose remains were found last week in Iraq.
"The military teaches you how to lead, but they don't teach you how to lose people," said the Hudson man last week after he arrived home. "He (Maupin) was your typical small-area high school kid who got done with school, went into the Army. He was just a well-liked, well-rounded individual."
Hill was with the 724th Transportation Co., the Bartonville-based Army Reserve unit, when a truck convoy was attacked nearly four years ago in a massive ambush that left two soldiers dead. Maupin, then a 20-year-old private first class from Batavia, Ohio, was captured and had been listed as missing ever since.
Last week, the military announced his remains had been found northwest of Baghdad, not far from where the April 9, 2004, ambush occurred. Hill came back for the funeral, which has now been scheduled for April 27 in Maupin's hometown.
Capt. Matt Brown, who led the convoy that day and who lost an eye in the ambush, called the Maupins when he heard the news. Like many with the 724th, Maupin's capture weighed heavily on him.
"It brings back a lot of memories. April 9 was coming up anyway, and as much as I try to put that in the back of my mind, you can't help but to reflect upon what happened," Brown, formerly of Chillicothe, said.
On April 9, 2004, an estimated 200 insurgents attacked the convoy just west of Baghdad. For several miles a rolling gun battle ensued, with the convoy being shot at with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. At the time, officials described the attack as one of the largest coordinated ambushes of the war.
Sgt. Elmer Krause and Spc. Gregory Goodrich died, as did six civilian contractors. Nearly two dozen were wounded. Maupin disappeared that day and was later seen on an Arab television network, sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.
Since then, there was little information, except a grainy video released in June 2004. Insurgents claimed the image was Maupin, though the military ruled the tape inconclusive. On March 30, the Army announced Maupin's remains were found just northwest of Baghdad, not far from where the attack occurred.
Like Hill, Brown is relieved Maupin's parents, Carolyn and Keith, finally have an answer. But Brown, who is in training in Arizona, said it still hurts.
"The burden isn't gone. He was still my soldier, and I was still responsible for him. He still didn't come home alive, so the burden isn't gone," he said.
Hill and Brown each had their memories of Maupin, who was known as an easy-going but dedicated soldier. A good guy, by all accounts, which is a driving force behind why those who knew him wanted to make sure he was never forgotten.
There will be a ceremony at LSA Anaconda, the base in Iraq where Maupin was stationed back in 2004 and the base where a morale tent has been established with money and computers donated through the Maupins. Here in Peoria, a vigil which was planned for Wednesday at Parkview Cemetery will continue, albeit with a different tone.
"The whole thing is completely a memorial status at this point," said organizer Dennis Pickles. "You have to bring them home, dead or alive. They need to be home.
"It matters. So many people think that those POW rides don't matter, but they do," he said.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or email@example.com.