Keith Maupin’s Remains Identified

The body of Staff Sergeant Keith Maupin, the American soldier who was captured and murdered nearly four years ago, has finally been officially identified.

Keith Maupin Al Jazeera Hostage Photo

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.

On Monday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed sympathy to Maupin’s family. “This has been especially difficult for the Maupin family because of not knowing for almost exactly four years. So I want to extend my condolences,” Gates said, speaking to reporters aboard a flight to Denmark.

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.


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.


Four U.S. service members remain missing in Iraq: Capt. Michael Speicher, a Navy pilot, has been missing since the 1991 Persian Gulf War; Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie, a 41-year-old Iraqi-born reserve soldier from Ann Arbor, Mich., was abducted while visiting his Iraqi wife in October 2006 in Baghdad, and Pfc. Byron Fouty and Sgt. Alex Jimenez have been missing since May 12.

Honestly, I’ve presumed Maupin has been dead since my 24 June 2008 post SPC Keith M. Maupin Murdered and haven’t given him much thought since. I’m glad that his family finally has closure and hope the same will be true of the other four families.

When I heard this story this morning, I was puzzled by the continual references to him as “Sergeant Maupin,” remembering him as a specialist. This discrepancy is due to an interesting Army policy: Maupin was a mere private first class when he was taken hostage but, “A month after his capture, Maupin was promoted to the rank of specialist. In April 2005, he was promoted to sergeant.” On 3 August 2006, he was promoted to staff sergeant. How so?

“This will keep Staff Sgt. Maupin in line with his peers so that when he returns he’ll have some catching up to do as far as proper schooling goes, but at least he’ll have the rank of his peers, who are now part of the NCO corps,” said Maj. Annmarie Daneker, 88th Regional Readiness Command Public Affairs Office.

Missing after the attack, Maupin was immediately placed in an accountability status referred to as “Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown.” His status was later changed to “Missing-Captured.”

It’s a nice gesture. One presumes his next of kin was paid his salary, too, until this determination.

UPDATE: From the article that announced his promotion to SSG: “Maupin remains entitled to rights and privileges for pay and promotions as long as he remains on active-duty status. His basic monthly pay continues to go into an account Maupin set up before deploying. “

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.