Thousands Mourn And Honor Ohio Soldier

Thousands of people attend a memorial service for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin at Great American Ball Park, Sunday, April 27, 2008 in Cincinnati. Maupin was listed as missing for nearly four years after his fuel convoy was attacked by insurgents near Baghdad. His remains were found last month about 12 miles from the site of the ambush. (AP Photo/David Kohl)
AP Photo/David Kohl
It was a goodbye so many never wanted to say. But when the time came, thousands wouldn't miss it.

Military personnel and supporters from across the country joined a southwest Ohio family Sunday at a memorial service for an Army reservist whose remains were found in Iraq last month, nearly four years after he was captured.

Thousands walked past his casket during a daylong visitation at a civic center in Clermont County, east of Cincinnati, where Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin grew up, and many of them went to Great American Ball Park, the home of the Cincinnati Reds, for the memorial.

The crowd occupied only the lower portion of the 42,000-seat stadium, behind home plate, from first base to third.

Maupin's flag-draped casket was on a platform in the area of the pitcher's mound. The only people on the field were members of the 338th Army band and about 100 family members, military representatives and dignitaries.

Among them were members of the Illinois-based 724th Transportation Co., which Maupin was serving with when his fuel convoy was attacked by insurgents on April 9, 2004, near Baghdad.

Maupin was deployed to Iraq in February 2004, when he was just 20 years old, CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports.

He was taking classes at the University of Cincinnati and working part-time at Sam's Club when he volunteered for the Army Reserves.

His brother-in-law Carl Cottrell said at his service, "I am proud of your unspeakable bravery and courage."

Maupin, a private first class then, was listed as missing-captured until a tip from local Iraqis led to the discovery of his remains on the northwest outskirts of Baghdad, about 12 miles from where the convoy was ambushed.

The Army promoted Maupin three times since his capture, to keep his military career on a par with his contemporaries if he survived. During a private ceremony with his family on Saturday, the Army awarded Maupin the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, the POW Medal and other commendations.

"Matt Maupin was the all-American kid," retired Lt. Gen. James Campbell, representing the Army, said at the service. "We are so proud of you. You have served your country with honor and distinction."

Maupin became the face of the war in Iraq for many Americans after the Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape in April 2004 showing him wearing camouflage and a floppy desert hat, sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

Two months later, another Al-Jazeera tape purported to show Maupin being shot. But the dark and grainy images showed only the back of the victim's head and not the execution.

"In his service, he became a son to all of Batavia and a son to all of Ohio," said Gov. Ted Strickland. "The Maupins heard the prayers of people from across the state and across the world."

For nearly four years, and largely because of his parents' determined lobbying with the Army, their congressman and President Bush, Maupin was listed as missing-captured.

During that time, the Yellow Ribbon Support Center founded by Keith and Carolyn Maupin sent nearly 10,000 packages of toiletries, magazines, snacks and games to soldiers.

They have said that work will continue.