Between the headlines: “Culkin plans to testify for Jackson” and “Kentucky Fried Chicken moniker returning?” I read that two U.S. Marines and a U.S. solder were killed in Iraq last Friday, a U.S. Marine was shot and killed in Ramadi the day before that. And that enemy mortar fire killed a Marine the day before that.
The total number of coalition casualties totals 1,726. 176 of these deaths come from countries like Bulgaria, Estonia and Hungary.
Because our government does not keep track of Iraqi casualties and wounded, avoiding the “body count” mentality of the Vietnam War, others have made the attempt. Estimates range from 12,500 to 100,000.
The total number of U.S. deaths stands at 1,563 with an additional 11,665 U.S. wounded. And then I suddenly remembered the one U.S. soldier that is missing in action. I hadn’t thought of Matt Maupin in awhile. I had forgotten.
On April 9, 2004 Spc. Keith “Matt” Maupin, of Batavia, Ohio was just 20 when his convoy came under heavy attack. Maupin was one of 10 soldiers providing security for Halliburton employees hauling fuel while traveling the dangerous stretch of road to the Baghdad airport. When the chaos ended, 25 were killed or wounded and Matt was missing.
That was the last time his family and friends were able to see him.
Because a “recognized government" has to capture you alive for you to be listed as a POW, Maupin is listed as “Missing/Captured.” His parents have been making the $2,400 monthly deposit of his salary. “Matt’s going to like that,” his father says. “He said it’s all tax free.”
Matt is married and has a young child. His high school issued a statement that read, “He is a "great kid" and "an excellent student" who won the Scholar Athlete Award for maintaining a 3.5 GPA while playing football.” He loved Superman and Star Wars. Like a lot of kids, his grew up with a basketball hoop in the driveway and unlike most, had a '98 red Mustang that he cherished. He was also shy around girls. He is good looking and friends say he is “laid-back.”
Matt shocked his parents by coming home one day and announcing he had joined the Army Reserve. Studying nutritional science, he needed money to continue his college education. His father, an ex-Marine, was not happy about Matt’s decision. The war was still going on in Afghanistan and everyone knew Iraq was next.
Even before Matt’s capture, his parents had started the “Yellow Ribbon Support Center.” Volunteers help to box and ship donated items to the troops oversees. The carepackages include candy, cookies, coffee and hot chocolate, games, toothbrushes, underwear and toiletries. (Their wishlist is here.)
Now each box also contains a plastic bag with 10 small pin-on badges showing a photo of Maupin and a slip of paper that says: “These are pictures of our captured soldier Spc. Keith ‘Matt’ Maupin, please help us find him.”
According to the Foundation’s website, Matt’s parents are getting frustrated with the Army. “They call and tell us there’s no update,” Matt’s father, Keith says. “We’re not getting bummed out. We’re actually getting pissed.”
Every so often Matt’s mom Carolyn, gets the urge to find her son herself. “But then I realize that’s just the anger of a parent,” she says. “They tell me Iraq is as big as California. Where would I start looking?”
President Bush has contacted Matt's parents four times. All before the election.
Regardless, they still support the war.
Matt’s unit returned home last month, but he remains missing. He’s now 21.
While a new Gallop poll shows that 53% of Americans now say the war in Iraq is not worth it, and our government offers a $25 million reward for terrorist, al-Zarqawi’s capture, Matt Maupin’s parents continue to include his photos on little pins and ship them to Iraq.
They don’t want us to forget. Let them know you won’t.