By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
UNION TOWNSHIP - A West African prayer, a sympathetic phone call from a soldier who once was a prisoner in Iraq and an outpouring of community love and support has sustained the family of captive soldier Matt Maupin, a family spokesman said.
Late Monday afternoon, in the shelter of Veterans Park, about two miles from the Maupin family home, the soldier's sister, Lee Ann Spencer, and her boyfriend, Carl Cottrell II, stood before a phalanx of television cameras and microphones to ask Americans to "cover the nation in yellow ribbons."
Cottrell, who spoke for the family while Spencer stood silently by his side, once again asked that the media and the public respect the Maupin family's privacy
"We understand the media's interest in gathering information about Matt Maupin but, for now, it is entirely inappropriate," said Cottrell, who, with Spencer, was driven to the news conference by an Army major who has been assigned fulltime to assist the family.
Maupin, a 20-year-old Army reservist, has been missing since April 9, when the convoy in which he was driving a fuel truck was attacked near the village of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad.
For a week, the Maupin family waited anxiously for news of Maupin's fate. Then, Friday afternoon, the Arab television station Al Jazeera released a videotape showing Maupin surrounded by five hooded men carrying semi-automatic weapons.
There have been no public statements from the Pentagon since Friday. Monday, the U.S. military officially changed his status from whereabouts unknown to captured.
During the weekend, Cottrell said, the Maupins received a phone call from former POW Jessica Lynch and her family.
Lynch was the U.S. soldier from West Virginia held captive by Iraqi soldiers for 12 days a year ago before being rescued by U.S. forces.
The Lynches "conveyed their compassion for the Maupin family and shared a tender moment in prayer," Cottrell said.
Cottrell also told of a letter that arrived recently at the home of the soldier's mother, Carolyn Maupin, who lives nearby in the Willowville neighborhood.
The letter, which was from someone the family does not know, offered sympathy for their plight and a quote from a West African prayer that Cottrell said the family has taken to heart.
"Love never loses its way home, the prayer says," Cottrell said.
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson has offered to try to win the release of Maupin and other hostages. The government has not responded to Jackson's offer.
Cottrell said the Maupin family "has not had any direct contact with Jesse Jackson.''
The video of Maupin as a prisoner is a hopeful sign, Cottrell said.
"Each time that the video is played on TV, it brings the same reaction as it did the first time we saw it,'' he said. "Our hope runs high.''
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