BATAVIA, Ohio – Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin's parents vowed to never let the U.S. Army forget about finding their son.
Their efforts included trips to the Pentagon and even meeting with President Bush, but they ended in disappointment Sunday: An Army general told them the remains of Maupin, a soldier who had been listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004, had been found.
"My heart sinks, but I know they can't hurt him anymore," Keith Maupin said after receiving word about the remains of his son, who went by Matt.
The Army didn't say how or where in Iraq his son's remains were discovered, only that the identification was made with DNA testing, Maupin said. A shirt similar to the one his son was wearing at the time of his disappearance was also found.
The Army was continuing its investigation, Maupin said.
Lt. Lee Packnett, an Army public affairs officer in Washington, said an official statement about the identification would be released Monday.
Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy, part of the Bartonville, Ill.-based 724th Transportation Company, was ambushed west of Baghdad.
A week later, the Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape showing a stunned-looking Maupin wearing camouflage and a floppy desert hat, 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 and grainy tape showed only the back of the victim's head and not the execution.
The Maupins refused to believe their son was dead. They lobbied hard for the Army to continue listing him as missing-captured, fearing that another designation would undermine efforts to find him.
The Pentagon agreed to give the Maupins regular briefings, and Bush met with them when he traveled to Cincinnati.
Keith Maupin said the Army told him soon after his son's capture that there was only a 50 percent chance he would be found alive. He said he doesn't hold the Army responsible for his son's death, but that he did hold the Army responsible for bringing his son home.
"I told them when we'd go up to the Pentagon, whether he walks off a plane or is carried off, you're not going to leave him in Iraq like you did those guys in Vietnam," Maupin said.
Keith Maupin and his ex-wife, Carolyn, held a candlelight vigil Sunday night outside the Yellow Ribbon Support Center in Batavia, an office they used to package thousands of boxes of donated snacks and toiletries for shipment to soldiers in Iraq.
"It hurts," Carolyn Maupin said. "After you go through almost four years of hope, and this is what happens, it's like a letdown, so I'm trying to get through that right now."
The Maupins said they would hold to their previous plans for Monday and appear in the baseball season opening day parade for the Reds in downtown Cincinnati.
Asked how they would suspend their grief and take part in the parade, Keith Maupin said, "Our mission continues." They raise funds for the Yellow Ribbon center and for scholarships for children of veterans.
The Maupins were told by an Army official on Friday to expect an update on their son over the weekend, Keith Maupin said. The Army broke the news about their son's remains at a somber meeting.
"When you look out there in the parking lot and see a three-star general get out of a car, you know it ain't good news," Keith Maupin said.
Matt Maupin graduated from Glen Este High School, just east of Cincinnati, in 2001 and attended the University of Cincinnati for a year before joining the Army Reserves.
Dan Simmons, the athletic director at Glen Este, remembered him as a quiet but hardworking backup player on the school's football team.
"Matt was a selfless kid on the football field," Simmons said. "He did whatever the coaches told him. He wasn't a starter, but he made the other kids play harder."
A month after his capture, Maupin was promoted to the rank of specialist. In April 2005, he was promoted to sergeant.