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For family of missing soldier, any updates help

Carolyn and Keith Maupin have regular appointments with the Pentagon, hoping for any new bits of information about their son, who was captured by insurgents more than 18 months ago.
Keith and Carolyn Maupin, parents of missing Army Reserve Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin, talk with the media on  Friday in Washington. Their son is currently the only soldier classified as captured in Iraq.Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

Carolyn and Keith Maupin walked into the Pentagon Friday hoping for any new bits of information about their son, who was captured by insurgents near Baghdad more than 18 months ago.

They left after more than two hours, saying defense officials assured them the military is continuing to search for Army Reserve Sgt. Keith “Matt” Maupin. But they got no definitive answer to the question that haunts them most: Is he still alive?

“Even though you see a smile, your heart still aches,” Carolyn Maupin told a reporter after the meeting, as she and her husband visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, both wearing pins bearing a photo of their son.

Surrounded by journalists and escorted by two Army officials, Keith Maupin — wearing a POW-MIA hat — said he believes “they’ll find something soon. They’ll find him.” He said he and his wife went to the somber Vietnam Wall because, “There are 50,000 names on that wall, and I just wanted to say thanks.”

The Maupins met with Lt. Gen. James L. Campbell, the Director of the Army Staff, as well as officials from the Casualty Assistance Office and the Joint Personnel Recovery Office. They also had a video conference call with senior officers in Iraq, including officials from U.S. Central Command.

Asked whether they learned anything new, they said nothing.

“We will not discuss the specifics of the update because it is an ongoing operation and saying anything could be detrimental to Matt’s safe return and the safety of those involved in the search,” they said in a written statement.

Captured a year and a half ago
The statement continued, “It has been more than 18 months since he was captured, and we pray every day for him and the soldiers who continue to search for him. We ask the American people to do the same.”

Army officials said Friday that Sgt. Maupin’s status remains unchanged, and he is still considered captured. He is the only soldier who is missing or currently considered captured in the Iraq War.

The officials who met with the Maupins were expected to provide the family with more details of the ongoing search for their son, including reports that a Fort Drum, N.Y.-based Army unit spent seven hours Saturday searching for his body in the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad.

The Batavia, Ohio, soldier has been missing since April 9, 2004, when his fuel truck convoy was ambushed by insurgents west of Baghdad after leaving camp. He was 20 at the time.

Soldier surrounded by gunmen in videotape
A week later, Arab television network Al-Jazeera released a videotape showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

That June, Al-Jazeera released another tape purporting to show a U.S. soldier being shot. But the dark and grainy tape showed only the back of the victim’s head and did not show the actual shooting. The Army ruled it was inconclusive.

The Maupins said Friday’s meeting — which also included a private lunch in the Pentagon — was helpful, and showed the Army is following leads on their son’s whereabouts.

And it seems other Ohio residents are also following the progress. As the Maupins walked near the Vietnam Memorial, they were greeted by Jeffrey and Courtney Neal, who were visiting Washington, D.C., from Harrison, Ohio.

“We’re praying for you guys, hang in there,” Jeffrey Neal told the Maupins, as the couples embraced.