Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Iraq war hits close to home


Clermont County scholar-athlete among the missing after convoy ambush

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
Keith M. Maupin
UNION TOWNSHIP - On the streets of Willowville and Glen Este, yellow ribbons were tied on trees and utility poles Tuesday, signs of hope for the safe return of a 20-year-old Army reservist reported missing in Iraq.

Keith M. Maupin - better known to friends and family as "Matt" - was one of two American soldiers confirmed missing Monday after an attack on a convoy west of Baghdad. Seven employees of an American contractor, Kellogg, Brown & Root, also were said to be missing.

The U.S. Central Command in Baghdad would not say whether Maupin, a member of the 724th Transportation Co. stationed in Bartonville, Ill., and the others were abducted. The attack on Maupin's convoy came Friday near the village of Abu Ghraib. They were ambushed by attackers using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.

Friends and family began gathering Sunday at the Willowville home of his mother, Carolyn Maupin, after word came from Pentagon officials that Maupin was, in military parlance, "DUSTWUN" - Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown. The soldier's younger brother, 18-year-old Micah, a U.S. Marine, just finished boot camp and was sent home to be with his family.

Carolyn Maupin and other family members were not available for comment.

By all accounts, Matt Maupin was a highly regarded young man in the small western Clermont County community.

[photo]
Keith "Matt" Maupin in his football uniform in a photo from Glen Este High School's 2001 yearbook. Maupin joined the Army Reserves over a year ago and has been in Iraq about five months.
"Matt is a great kid, and he comes from a great family," said Dennis Ashworth, the principal of Glen Este High School, where Maupin graduated in 2001. "All of us here are extremely concerned about his well-being."

The young man was a scholar-athlete in high school who maintained a 3.5 grade-point average while playing three years of football, mostly as a wide receiver.

Four years ago, he was chosen by the American Legion to attend the nine-day Buckeye Boys State conference at Bowling Green State University, where high school boys learn practical civics lessons by holding mock elections and forming "governments."

Sean Speigel, 21, who played football with Maupin at Glen Este, said he saw his friend last summer and knew that he had joined the Army Reserves to help pay for college, but didn't know Maupin was in Iraq until he heard the news Tuesday.

"He's just a fun guy to be with,'' said Speigel, who lives in Withamsville and attends the University of Cincinnati. "He likes rock climbing and works out a lot."

Speigel said he did not believe his friend was "real gung-ho about fighting. He thought driving a truck wouldn't be too much in harm's way. I was just shocked to hear what happened."

He joined the Army Reserves over a year ago, completing his basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., last May. His unit was shipped to Iraq for a yearlong tour of duty about five months ago.

His mother, who works as transportation secretary for the West Clermont School District, was one of six Clermont County residents who formed a military support group last fall. The group is made up of people with children or other family members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who lean on each other for support and who organize letter-writing and "care package" campaigns for troops overseas.

Karen Flinn of Glen Este, one of the other founders of the group, said Carolyn Maupin recently organized a campaign to send Easter packages to dozens of soldiers in Iraq, soliciting a $400 donation from a local American Legion post to cover the costs.

"This family is very dear to us and this is a very difficult time," said Flinn, whose own son, Christopher, served with the 1st Armored Division in Iraq. "This is what all of us in the support group have dreaded. Now it is more important than ever to support each other.

Karen Vance contributed to this report. E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com




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