Thursday, July 1, 2004

Briefing leaves Maupins with hope, but no news



By Reid Forgrave
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
After briefing the Maupin family, Brig. Gen. Michael Beasley (from left), Rep. Rob Portman, Maj. Willie Harris and Maj. Mark Magalski talk to the media at Willowville Elementary School Wednesday afternoon. "We came out here today to reassure you that there is no bad information, no negative information with regard to Spc. Maupin that is known now," Beasley said.
The Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
UNION TOWNSHIP - The family of kidnapped soldier Spc. Keith Matthew Maupin was briefed Wednesday by several Army and Department of Defense officials, including a brigadier general, who updated the family on what the military is doing to rescue the 20-year-old Reservist.

The military officials were unable to give the family any updates on Maupin's whereabouts, but the family remains optimistic about his prospects of returning home safely, they said.

"Congressman (Rob) Portman and the Department of Defense put together the briefing team to tell the Maupin family about the efforts the past couple months to locate and arrange for the release of Spc. Maupin," said Brig. Gen. Michael W. Beasley, commanding general for the U.S. Army's 88th Regional Readiness Command

Beasley, along with Portman, Maupin family casualty assistance officer Maj. Mark Magalski and Army spokesman Maj. Willie Harris, met with dozens of reporters Wednesday afternoon at Willowville Elementary School, across the street from the Maupin home.

RIBBON RALLY
• A local military support group will host a ribbon-making rally Saturday at the Eastgate Starbucks, down the road from the home of Spc. Matt Maupin, a Glen Este High School graduate who has been held hostage by Iraqi insurgents since April 9.

Starting at 10 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, Clermont Yellow Ribbon will make red, white and blue lapel ribbons, yellow lapel ribbons and large yellow ribbons in support of Maupin and all American troops who are overseas now. For information, visit www.clermontyellowribbon.com.

Donations of ribbon, straight pins, floral wire or zip ties may be dropped off at the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 410 E. Main St., Batavia, or volunteers may bring donations Saturday to Starbucks, near the Meijer store off Ohio 32.

• Clermont County will sponsor a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. Monday for Sgt. Charles Kiser, 37, an Amelia native who was killed in Iraq last week when his convoy was attacked. The vigil will be held at the Clermont County Courthouse, 270 E. Main St., Batavia.

Military officials assured the public that the briefing was scheduled nearly two weeks ago, before a dark, grainy video aired this week on the Arab Al-Jazeera television network, purporting to show Maupin being executed.

"We knew the media interest would be heightened because of the events of the past couple days," Beasley said. "We came out here today to reassure you that there is no bad information, no negative information with regard to Spc. Maupin that is known now. We are continuing full efforts to locate him and return him to his family."

Portman, a Terrace Park Republican, said he has visited with the family most weekends since April 9, when Maupin's convoy was attacked near Baghdad by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. A video aired worldwide on April 16 showing Maupin surrounded by his captors - five gunmen with their faces covered.

Wednesday's meeting "was a sign of continued hope for Matt's safe return," Portman said. "It was a meeting about the ongoing effort to find and rescue Matt and not about the videotape. To hear it first hand and face-to-face was reassuring to the family."

Beasley stressed that the most recent video, which aired Monday on Al-Jazeera and shows a man in American military garb being shot and thrown into a shallow grave, does not bring the military to a conclusion on Maupin's status.

Pentagon investigators continue to examine the validity of the video, where an Arabic voice identifies the soldier as Maupin.

"Every effort possible has been made for furthering the analysis of the tape, but that remains inconclusive," Beasley said. "No conclusion at all can be drawn from it."

Maupin's official status remains "captured."

Maupin's parents, Keith and Carolyn Maupin, as well as his younger brother, Micah Maupin, who was recently flown in from his Marine base in Cherry Point, N.C., attended the meeting, which dealt with mostly procedural queries on what the military is doing to try to rescue Maupin, Beasley said.

Military officials would not comment on specific information, citing the family's privacy. The Maupin family has declined to speak about their son publicly in the nearly three months since he was captured.

Portman told the Enquirer that he has had military briefings on efforts to find and rescue Maupin several times since he was taken hostage, but offered to arrange a similar briefing for the family.

"I thought the family should have the same information straight from the source," Portman said.

Staff writer Howard Wilkinson contributed to this report. E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com




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