BATAVIA, Ohio – Nearly 30,000 pictures of Matt Maupin are circulating around Iraq, a loving effort by his parents to locate the only U.S. soldier still listed as missing since his capture two years ago.
Carolyn Maupin steadfastly hopes that someday, someone will recognize Matt, and he will come home.
She refuses to consider the alternative.
"I honestly thought he'd be back by now," she said. "I didn't think it would take this long.
Pictures of Matt are placed inside the boxes of goodies sent to troops in Iraq by the Maupins' Yellow Ribbon Support Center — a storefront operation near the Sam's Club where Matt used to work.
"We put 10 pictures inside each box with a little note asking them to please help us find him, and also thanking them for defending our freedom," Maupin said.
Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin is known as Matt because Keith is also his father's name. He was a 20-year-old private first class in the Army Reserves when he was captured April 9, 2004, when his fuel convoy, part of the 724th Transportation Co., was ambushed west of Baghdad.
A week later, Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.
That June, Al-Jazeera aired another tape purporting to show a U.S. soldier being shot. But the dark, grainy tape showed only the back of the victim's head and did not show the actual shooting.
The Army ruled it was inconclusive whether the soldier in the second tape was Maupin, and he has been promoted twice since his capture.
After a routine review a year ago, the adjutant general approved an Army board's recommendation to continue Maupin's status as "missing-captured." That has not changed, and there are no plans for another review, said Maj. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman in Washington.
President Bush has met with Keith and Carolyn Maupin on trips to nearby Cincinnati, and they have been briefed at the Pentagon about efforts to find their son.
The Maupins have helped get computers to soldiers in Iraq to give them access to e-mail and college courses, and they hope to raise $100,000 at a dinner-dance Sunday to fund scholarships in the name of area soldiers who have died in Iraq.
"They have a great deal of courage," said Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt, an avid supporter who lives in Loveland near the Maupins' hometown. "They've kept the candle burning for Matt; they're also keeping it burning for every member of the military."
Carolyn Maupin, 56, says she has changed a lot since her son's capture.
"I talk more than I ever thought I would," she said "I used to be a lot like Matt — quiet."
The Maupins declined all interviews at first, then gradually began attending public ceremonies.
"I didn't carry on very well the first three or four months," Carolyn Maupin said. "Then one day I decided it was time for me to go back to work. And really, I think it's become my safe haven."
Magnetic yellow ribbons hang from cars all over southwest Ohio, and fabric ribbons are festooned on trees, poles and every parking meter on Batavia's Main Street.
Seeing those is the best part of visiting home for the Maupin's other son, Marine Cpl. Micah Maupin, 21, who is stationed in California.
"I'm excited that people haven't forgotten about him," he said. "They're still in the fight with him."
Micah Maupin won't be going to Iraq with his unit in June because of a neck injury he sustained in a motorcycle accident. He said his chances of ever going are "slim."
Despite the uncertainties she faces, Carolyn Maupin is sure of one thing about Matt:
"One day, he'll be back."