Iraq War's First MIA Is Dead

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After nearly four years of hoping and praying for his safe return, the parents of the nation's first soldier listed as missing in action in the Iraq war said their son's remains have been found in Iraq. An Army general visited the couple in a Cincinnati suburb Sunday afternoon to give Carolyn and Keith Maupin the sad news about their son, Sergeant Matt Maupin. "Matt is coming home," his father said. "He's completed his mission."

Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured on April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy was attacked west of Baghdad. "It really hurts," his mother said. "You go through four years of hope."

A week after the ambush, Maupin appeared in a videotape surrounded by masked men. In the summer of 2004, an al-Jazeera broadcast purportedly showed his execution, but Pentagon officials said they couldn't be sure it was authentic. So his family — and the Maupins' hometown of Batavia, just east of Cincinnati — has kept a vigil for Matt ever since. A Pentagon official confirmed that Maupin's remains had been found last week, and that DNA testing confirmed his identity.

The Maupins met with President Bush several times since their son's kidnapping, with Keith Maupin saying he wouldn't shave off his lengthening beard until his son came home. The Army continued to promote the Army reservist while he was missing. Three other soldiers are listed as missing in the Iraq war.

"Until Matt walks off the plane — or they carry him off — we will believe and have faith that Matt is alive," Keith told TIME on the first anniversary of his son's abduction. "I'm almost certain that it's a test from God and that God is not going give you more than you can bear."