Saturday, April 17, 2004

Area's mood turns hopeful


Now, prayers directed for Maupin's return

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BATAVIA - Hope came in the form of thousands of yellow ribbons tied on trees and on parking meters, on bridges and on baseball fields, in this Clermont County village Friday.

Hope waved in the stars and stripes of American flags that fluttered off the backs of fire trucks and waved amid a crowd of more 500 people who gathered to pray for the safe return of Matt Maupin.

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YOUR THOUGHTS
But most of all, hope came in the form of a community united in prayer for Maupin, the 20-year-old missing soldier from Union Township being held hostage in Iraq.

"Faith has gotten this family through it so far, and it's faith that's going to bring Matt back home,'' said Tim Berling, 18, a lifelong friend of Maupin's. "We may not know where Matt is now, but the Lord does. And that to me is a very comforting thought.''

The vigil was the second in two nights for Maupin. On Thursday, Glen Este High School's football field was filled with about 500 people, many holding candles and offering prayers for Maupin and his family.

On Friday, a videotape aired across the world showing a somber, but apparently unharmed, Maupin in desert camouflage being held by five hooded men armed with assault rifles.

Maupin, a member of the 724th Transportation Company, was one of two American soldiers missing since Friday after an attack on a convoy west of Baghdad. The whereabouts of the other solider, Sgt. Elmer C. Krause, 40, of Greensboro, N.C., remain unknown.

Word spread quickly of the videotape that showed Maupin alive.

The somber mood in the West Clermont school office where Maupin's mother, Carolyn, works, turned joyful Friday afternoon.

"We were thrilled to hear that Matt is alive," said Mary Ellen Steele-Pierce, assistant superintendent. "We continue to pray for his safety and for his safe return."

Maupin graduated from Glen Este High School in 2001.

Jack Cleland, assistant manager at Sam's Club in Eastgate, where Maupin worked before going into the military, said a customer told his co-workers about the videotape.

"A lot of people are sad now, but I'm happy. It's a whole lot better than bad news,'' Cleland said. "I was almost crying when I heard it. If there is any possibility the military can find him they will take every opportunity to do it.

"I just hope (the captors) don't do anything harmful to him,'' he said.

Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud told the crowd: "We must keep support for our troops over there. They need to know people back here are supporting them.''

"If something like this doesn't bring us all together, nothing will. I think we should all go home and hug our children tonight,'' said Jerry Springer, the talk-show host who now lives in Cincinnati.

"Pray tonight for our brave soldier Matt Maupin, who right now at 3 a.m. Baghdad time can feel the support and prayers of this wonderful crowd,'' said Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park.

Carl R. Cottrell II, the boyfriend of Maupin's sister Lee Ann Spencer, thanked the crowd for its support: "Believe in the military. Believe in Matt,'' he said.

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Cindy Kranz and Cliff Radel contributed. E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com




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