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September 16, 2005

National POW/MIA Day, 2005

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Commentary: Remember `One of our Own' on POW/MIA Day By Col. Randy Pullen September 15, 2005

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 15, 2005) – This year’s observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day is Sept. 16 and it has a special poignancy to those with ties to the remembered.

As Americans, we should pause to remember our fellow citizens who were prisoners of war in a World War II POW camp – like the heroes of Bataan and Corregidor held in the Cabanatuan POW camp that is the subject of the current film, “The Great Raid” -- or who are still missing from the Vietnam War.

It’s one thing, though, when that tie to those remembered is limited to the common bond of citizenship and to those you only know from history books or the movies.

It’s another thing entirely when that fellow American is a member of your family.

A member of our Army family is being remembered this National POW/MIA Recognition Day – Sgt. Keith “Matt” Maupin of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 724th Transportation Company from Bartonville, Ill.

On April 9, 2004, a convoy from the 724th, en route from Balad to Baghdad International Airport, was ambushed in one of the most massive such attacks of the Iraq war. In the ensueing action, the 43 Soldiers in the convoy killed or wounded some 200 insurgents. Two of their fellow Soldiers, Sgt. Elmer C. Krause and Spc. Gregory Goodrich, were killed, as were six civilians. One civilian contract employee, Thomas Hamill, was captured but escaped 24 days later.

One Soldier, then-Spc. Maupin, was captured. He remains a captive to this day.

Officially, the Army placed him in a “Whereabouts Unknown” duty status on the day of his capture. A week later, on April 16, 2004, his status was changed to “Missing-Captured.”

Despite claims by the insurgents and an inconclusive video of someone being killed by them, an Army board of inquiry that met April 6, 2005, to review his status decided to maintain Maupin, who was promoted to sergeant on April 1, 2005, in "Missing-Captured" status.

Neither the Army, the Army Reserve, his fellow Soldiers, nor his family have given up on finding Maupin and bringing him home.

At a Nov. 10, 2004, Pentagon ceremony unveiling the Warrior Ethos Display, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker articulated the Army’s commitment to upholding this pertinent tenet of the ethos: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Speaking to the parents of Maupin, who were in attendance, Schoomaker said, “We will not rest until we come to closure, and recover, hopefully soon, your son; we are committed to that.”

“One of our own, Sgt. Matt Maupin of the 724th Transportation Company, remains captured after more than a year,” said Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, in an April 23 message to the men and women of the Army Reserve.

“His parents, Keith and Carolyn Maupin, have demonstrated exemplary courage and grace,” Helmly continued. “Despite the heartbreak of having a son in captivity, they have worked endlessly with the Yellow Ribbon Support Center they founded in Ohio to support Soldiers and their families. Their bravery and loyalty in the face of overwhelming circumstances is inspiring.”

The Army Reserve chief also mentioned Maupin and his parents at the unveiling of the 88th Regional Readiness Command’s Wall of Heroes Memorial at its headquarters in Fort Snelling, Minn., July 9, 2005. The 724th is an 88th RRC unit.

“He is ever on our minds and always in our hearts,” Helmly said. “I ask each of us spare a moment for his parents … so, too, should we keep them in our prayers.

“The Creed states, we will never leave a fallen comrade and for that reason, we stand by the Maupins for their son's return home.”

Maupin’s unit returned from its tour of duty in Iraq in February. Upon its return, one Soldier in the unit, Spc. Jeremy L. Church, was presented with the Silver Star, the Nation’s third-highest combat award, and the first one earned by an Army Reserve Soldier in the Global War on Terror. He received this decoration for his courageous actions during the convoy ambush.

As you’d expect, Church has many, many memories of that day of battle, of coming home and of the excitement surrounding the Silver Star presentation. One memory never far from his mind, however, is about Maupin.

“I can’t wait till Maupin gets back,” Church said. “It really helps out when people give him (their) prayers. I know his family is going through a really hard time right now, much harder then we are.”

Before the unit came home in February, Church re-enlisted for six more years in the Army Reserve. When asked why he chose to re-enlist, Church had this to say:

“I’m not through with the military. He’s [Maupin] still over there. Ribbons aren’t coming down until we get him back.”

Previous wars have been much more costly in terms of prisoners of war and missing in action. There are still 30,000 MIAs from World War II, more than 8,000 from the Korean War and, as of Aug. 9 there were 1,815 Americans still listed as MIA from the Vietnam War. Thousands more during these recent wars became POWs with the lucky ones coming home after the war ended; but very many others died in captivity, with the only saving grace being that their deaths were confirmed, thus giving their families closure.

To each family of a POW or a MIA, regardless of how many have been captured or are missing in a conflict, the fate of their loved one brings with it worry, anxiety and pain. Each family prays that their loved one is being treated well if captured and will be released soon to return to a grateful nation and a joyous family. For those missing, the family hopes the loved one makes his or her way back to friendly forces or has the status changed to one of more certainty, as an acknowledged POW or as an identified killed in action.

On POW/MIA Recognition Day, we remember the courage of our fellow Soldiers and servicemen and women as they endured captivity. We also remember the equal courage of their family members as they also endured their loved one’s captivity or the agonies of not knowing their fate. We remember and we hope for a conclusion to those trials.

That is what we in the Army family are remembering and hoping this Sept. 16 when we think of Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, our only captured/missing Soldier of the current war.

As a pointless aside - Colonel Pullen and I were Lieutenants together...

John | Permalink | Comments (13) | Observations on things Military
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